“The Living Daylights” is one of the best James Bond films. It’s more than just a Bond film with gadgets and henchmen with unusual scarring or kill techniques. It’s actually a film that plays on the Cold War instead of loosely being inspired by it like say “Dr. No” or “You Only Live Twice.”
A Russian agent wants to defect and is eternally grateful for Bond’s assistance. The mission goes as planned but then twists fall into play and maybe there’s more to this Russian agent than was foreseen. Who is his beautiful girlfriend? What does an American arms dealer have to do with all this? How does opium and diamond smuggling become involved? There are travels to Czechoslovakia, Tangiers, beautiful Vienna and ironically Afghanistan. Yes. In 1987, James Bond could rely on Afghan rebels for aid and weaponry. Any chance this film will be remade today?
Maryam D’Abo is a beautiful concert cellist and she’s great in the film. Her character is Kara Miloviloy (no innuendo that I could find in that name; this is more spy thriller than sexual schtick). Timothy Dalton makes his first of two appearances as Bond. He’s more serious than audiences were accustomed to putting his sharp wit and intelligence ahead of his sarcasm like Connery or Moore before him. Dalton and D’’Abo have great chemistry together. Jerome Krabbe is the dubious defector playing to whatever side will help him profit, and Joe Don Baker is the redneck arms dealer with an affection for history’s greatest battles only recreating them on his play sets to his own liking.
The film also boasts one of my favorite Bond openings; a runaway Jeep full of explosives careening down the Rock of Gibraltar with 007 hanging on to the roof. It’s a great set piece because it seamlessly looks like stunt work with minimal effects and it lends to the movie’s story.
Another great action moment occurs towards the end with Bond and an intimidating muscle man dangling from the netting of the back of a plan. I’d swear Dalton was doing his own stunts.
Regular Bond director John Glen made a great film of adventure, romance, action and Cold War politics. It’s worth a look, and then another look.