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The Living Daylights – A Look Back

tld bondBy Robert Baum

Timothy Dalton makes his debut as superspy James Bond in the newest cinematic mission marking 007’s cinematic silver anniversary. The Living Daylights begins a new era with a new Bond (number four) rugged enough to take on those who seek to conquer the world. Unlike Roger Moore, Dalton is not one for humor but for getting the job done. Handsome but deadly, Dalton’s 007 is something of a throwback to Sean Connery.
Bond’s mission: aborting a plot that might start WWIII–of course. Being a Bond film, there is a lovely lady (Maryam d’Abo) who succumbs to the charm of the British agent–who happens to be played by Welsh-born Dalton–incredible stunts, exotic locales, and an adversary (a rather blustery and not very menacing Joe Don Baker), with an army of goons.
Of course there are an incredible array of spectacular stunts, especially in the opening sequence when Bond and a few fellow agents drop in to commence a training exercise on Gibraltar. The opening offers the greatest action in the film. To his credit, Dalton does many of Bond’s stunts himself. We get to see an updated Aston Martin, the wheels Connery utilized in Goldfinger (and Thunderball). It too offers a few surprises which are employed as Bond and Kara (d’Abo) are chased by the Czech army. He explains–with deadpan delivery a la Connery–to Kara, “I’ve had a few optional extras installed,” options like a laser blowtorch that Bond uses to disable a pursuing car, missiles to blow up a road blockade, and a rocket engine to escape pursuit.
Bond’s nemesis, an arms merchant named Brad Whitaker (Baker), is something of a joke. He has a chameleonic Red Grant knockoff named Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) do his dirty work, which is often done while the brute’s Walkman plays the Pretenders’ “Where Has Everybody Gone” and notes from the song are threaded through the compositions by John Barry whenever the thug is onscreen. Whitaker is always at his villa in Tangier (supplied by tycoon Malcolm Forbes) playing with his toy soldiers. He also has a collection of mannequins that include Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon (an obvious allusion to Christopher Lee’s funhouse in The Man with the Golden Gun) which almost resemble the wily Whitaker. When first seen, Whitaker is standing with them as he no doubt fancies himself a great warrior in his own right. Or maybe just a dummy.
While making a brief appearance, Bond’s CIA chum Felix Leiter (John Terry)–the part was last played by David Hedison in Moore’s first 007 adventure Live and Let Die and recently by Bernie Casey in Connery’s return to MI6 in Never Say Never Again–turns up to help him, though the part seems little more than a cameo. The wonderful John Rhys-Davies is General Leonid Pushkin, head of the KGB, whom the British are led to believe by one of Pushkin’s subordinates (Jeroen Krabbe) is responsible for wanting to destroy the world.
While Dalton is not the charmer his predecessor Roger Moore was, he is a presence which is believable when it comes to getting the mission accomplished–with or without his PPK. Some might not be keen on Dalton’s deadpan delivery as he adopts a no-nonsense approach which might make Jack Webb’s followers thinking the former Joe Friday is eloquent. Thus making Dalton the second Jack Webb impersonator of the summer. Dan Aykroyd was first in the big screen adaptation of Dragnet. His deadpan is a virtual flatline and needs defibrilation to give it a spike. Dalton’s 007 has been described as the most deadly Bond on the teaser posters which have been displayed in theatres. Dalton clearly has what it takes to play the role: a commanding presence, looks that kill, and now a license (or licence in his case) to do so. He injects a suaveness that has been absent from the Bond films for a long while. Definitely a far cry from Moore’s swan song A View to a Kill.