“The Living Daylights”
Bond: Timothy Dalton
Classic, Cheese or Crap?: CLASSIC
That’s right. You Heard me. Classic.
Timothy Dalton’s Bond gets a bad rap in the collective Pop Culture memory. Somehow, he’s been pegged as one of the “Bad Bonds”… those actors who let the series down. What he really was was one of the SERIOUS Bonds. A la the current iteration with Daniel Craig. He wasn’t smug like Brosnan, or suave like Connery. His movies didn’t have the tongue in cheek element that people had grown accustomed to with Moore’s Bond.
What they were were pretty much straight up attempts at action movies revolving around an international spy.
Unfortunately for Dalton, a) The movie going public had tired of Bond at this point. The previous 3 Bond films had been cheese and crap in various doses (“Octopussy”, “A View to a Kill”, and the non-canon but still Bond “Never Say Never Again”). Can you blame audiences if their enthusiasm had waned? b) The public already wanted Pierce Brosnan to be Bond. He was a perfect fit for the role, and had been in negotiations for the part – but Hollywood legend holds that his increased popularity from those negotiations caused NBC to renew “Remington Steele”, which delayed Brosnan from accepting the part.
So along comes Dalton, with a very different Bond than Bond fans were used to, at a time where the Bond brand wasn’t exactly at its zenith, and he wasn’t the Bond that the people would have voted into office.
He makes two movies – both of which I like (Classic and Cheese, respectively), but neither of which were massive hits – and then legal issues with rebroadcast rights entangle the franchise in courts for years. He never plays Bond again.
The Living Daylights begins with the killing of three MI6 operatives during a training mission. Only Bond is clever enough to escape. It turns out, someone is killing spies…
Bond is tasked with assisting the defection of a Russian general. During the undertaking of this task, he foils what looks to be an assassination attempt. However, the entire defection soon turns out to be a ploy to plant the general and reveal the location of MI6’s safehouse. Dozens more MI6 operatives are killed when the Russians attack it. Bond then investigates by tracking the “Assassin” he foiled, only to find out she was romantically involved with the General and asked to pretend to shoot him in order to support the plot to insert the general and attack MI6.
As Bond investigates further, he reveals a complicated international plot. Arms dealers, drug traffickers, assassins, the Taliban (well, back then Afghanis were freedom fighters and Good Guys). And as he pursues the strands, he gets involved in a number of cool action sequences, including a great finale with real stuntmen on an actual plane.
Certainly, like every Bond film, there’s plenty to nitpick at if you wish. Personally I could do without the 30 seconds where he cuts the opposing car in half with his laser, and I completely understand folks who don’t like the cello case sled incident. That’s fine.
But overall, this is a Bond flick with relatively realistic action sequences, great stuntwork, a half decent Bond girl, and Villains and Henchmen who weren’t total cartoon characters. Dalton himself played Bond as focused, determined, maybe even a bit gruff. The plot (as typical) is complex and maybe even a little convoluted, but it’s not completely ridiculous at least… the villain isn’t trying to breed a master race or corner the silicon chip market by flooding Silicon Valley.
I think the biggest problem this chapter of the Bond saga actually faced was that the world wouldn’t be ready for a hard-ass Bond for another 20 years.