The more I think about Timothy Dalton as Bond, the more I feel he was unappreciated and underrated. The reason I say this because his introduction as Bond in The Living Daylights is very solid.
I guess it stems down to the fact that Dalton’s introduction is very energetic. He jumps out of a plane and parachutes down to the ground for what was supposed to be a simple training exercise, but quickly turns into a death match between spies.
It’s also a nice change, as we finally see Bond getting dirty again, after a decade of smooth charms and awesome (bordering cringe-worthy) one-liners from Roger Moore. Dalton brings toughness and intensity to Bond and easily distinguishes himself from the previous Bond actors. His Bond lacked charm but he made up for it by showing what Bond truly was. He even performed most of his own stunts, installing some belief once more of Bond going to the extreme. Dalton clearly did his research. If I had to be honest, Dalton is probably the closest representation of Bond from Fleming’s Books you will see on screen.
The Living Daylights is Bond rebooted for the 80s and the film reflects that. The film brings Bond back down to Earth, grounding him as a character. We see more of his motivations as he defies orders about taking out Kara (played by Maryam d’Arbo), who was about to assassinate a Russian defector, Koskov. He opts to investigate matters further rather than take things at face value, as his orders would have commanded him to. It was a good thing Bond followed his instincts as he uncovers double bluffs, misdirection and diamonds.
The whole film feels rebellious – this is not a Bond film we are use to! Gone are the fantasy elements, the over-extravagant villainous lairs and gorgeous locations. Instead Bond treats the audience to Vienna, Tangier and the deserts of Afghanistan! In many ways The Living Daylights feels real, set against the real life backdrop of the modern day Cold War of the 80s with arm dealerships and war profiteering.
The remaining cast is not bad as well. Kara is not the strongest of Bond girls but she compliments Dalton’s Bond well. She doesn’t have the comedic, double-entendre Bond name, but in the realistic tone set by the film, she is a character drawn into the plot rather than the simple eye candy. We even see the new Moneypenny who looks more like a bookworm than a femme fatale but she does enough in re-establishing the new. Out of the villains of Whitaker, Necros and Koskov, Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) stands out for me. He’s a man who is a great admirer of historical battles. In his head he is willing to change history to how he see fits and yet sees financial benefits and war mongering as the ultimate reward. I love Joe Don Baker’s eccentricity in the role and if you have seen him in Edge of Darkness, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s also one of the few actors to re-appear in a Bond film – the next time you see him will be Goldeneye assisting Pierce Bronsan’s Bond.
Musically, this is one of John Barry’s best scores for Bond. He re-energises the classic themes, and introduces synths and drum beats to reflect the current trend of 80s music. The change doesn’t sound out of place. In fact, he simply brings it up to date. One of the key changes is Barry’s collaboration with A-Ha. What a tune! It’s a song that seems to capture all the elements of the film. Historically, Barry and A-Ha never got on. Both were never satisfied with the outcome of the track with Barry opting to put more grand elements, when A-Ha wanted it toned down as it musically represented them more. Whilst A-Ha’s version is still very good (like a B-side remix), I prefer the film version just because it suited Bond more. Barry also created beautiful themes for the film such as “If There Was a Man” and “Where Has Everybody Gone? – songs he collaborated with The Pretenders. This was the last Bond film John Barry scored as he retired as Bond composer. He certainly went out on a high. To put it simply, Bond music hasn’t been the same since.
The Living Daylights breathes new life into the series and we needed that. We needed to be reminded what Bond was capable of and Dalton does well to illustrate that. It’s a pity that the audience of that time didn’t agree as they didn’t get him as Bond.
Hindsight is an amazing thing…because I certainly got him as Bond.
The Countdown So Far:
- #23 – Die Another Day
- #22 – Diamonds Are Forever
- #21 – Octopussy
- #20 – The Man With The Golden Gun
- #19 – Moonraker
- #18 – Tomorrow Never Dies
- #17 – The World is Not Enough
- #16 – Live and Let Die
- #15 – For Your Eyes Only
Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #13.