Time: 130 Minutes
Timothy Dalton as James Bond
Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy
Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker
Art Malik as Kamran Shah
John Rhys-Davies as General Leonid Pushkin
Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov
Director: John Glen
James Bond (Timothy Dalton) must cross several continents to confront and defeat an arms dealer who is conspiring with a Soviet general to start another world war for profit.
After watching Daniel Craig’s final film as James Bond in No Time to Die, I wanted to revisit the older Bond movies. The Bond era I was particularly interested in rewatching was the Timothy Dalton era, especially as it was said to be the blueprint for Craig’s Bond. While it’s been a while since I watched the pre-Craig movies, I knew that the Dalton movies were a shift after the campy Roger Moore movies. Having forgotten pretty much everything about the movie since the last time I saw it, I actually really liked it.
The Living Daylights starts off with a thrilling and exciting opening scene and only continues to excite from there. It’s pretty clear early on that the story is more grounded and realistic, doing away with a lot of the camp and over the top style from the Connery and Moore movies. Admittedly, the story is a bit complicated, and the plot does suffer from some unnecessary convolutions. However, it is still an entertaining globetrotting adventure. The story is constantly engaging and well written, and it helps that it moves at a fast pace. I appreciate the realistic plot concerning socio-political issues, even if it adds some somewhat unnecessary complexity to it. It still has Bond aspects which you would expect. There’s still gadgets, henchmen, cars, and chases. There’s also a surprising amount of humour, some of it works, but other moments feel a little out of place like they’re still carrying it over from the Roger Moore Bond films. The Living Daylights has crazy and over the top moments, it’s just that the movie also remains comparatively grounded with stakes and emotional weight. It does have some out of place gags like the car driving on ice and hitting into barns, but it wasn’t enough to take me out of it. In terms of issues, the third act can be a bit overwhelming with too much going on, and it can be weirdly paced. However even then I was able to just enjoy what I was watching.
This is the first of only two appearances from Timothy Dalton as James Bond. He really redefined the character in a confident debut performance, and he really was ahead of its time. Notably, Dalton’s version of Bond is refreshingly gruff, cynical and ruthless compared to most other versions of Bond. This cold, dark and serious demeanour fits perfectly with the tone of the film. At the same time, Dalton plays with the role with such elegance, charming with a dry sense of humour, and overall very human with moments of displayed emotion (along with having moments of brutality of course). Maryam d’Abo is solid as the Bond girl, Kara Milovy. I enjoyed her character, she was given a decent backstory and some character development, and she does feel like an actual human being. Dalton and her have good chemistry and the romance actually felt believable, helped by the fact that the story gives Bond and Kara more time to develop as a couple. Most of the supporting cast were solid, especially John Rhys-Davies. I liked the villains, they aren’t great, but the over the top arms dealer played by Joe Don Baker is enjoyable and fun to watch.
John Glen directs this movie very well, with great editing and camerawork, and makes really good use of its locations in Vienna, Morocco and Afghanistan. The action is also quite strong, staying relatively grounded but having its fair share of over the top moments. Dalton’s action particularly benefits from him doing a lot of his stunts. It always feels like Bond is always in danger, he doesn’t feel invincible. The music from John Barry is really good too and adds a lot to the movie, particularly the scenes of action.
I was surprised by how much I liked The Living Daylights. Timothy Dalton’s fresh take on Bond along with a relatively grounded yet entertaining story, and some well-directed action, makes it among my favourite Bond films, top 10 at least. This is very likely one of the more underrated movies in the Bond franchise, and it’s well worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet.