21 April 2009

The Living Daylights

I Like The Living Daylights, So There!
By Kristin Battestella

The Living DaylightsI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond; and it’s a dang pity that I’ve only got two performances of his to review.
MI6 agent 007 James Bond (Dalton) helps KGB General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) defect after a thwarted shooting attempt by cellist Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo). When Koskov disappears again, Bond sneaks Kara out of Bratislava-only to find the shooting was faked. With Kara’s help, Bond tracks down new KGB General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) and American turncoat General Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Unfortunately, KGB double agents, crooked weapons dealers, and Arab drug lords make allies and enemies blur for Bond.

After a popular but relatively crappy final showing by Roger Moore in A View To A Kill, Timothy Dalton takes the reigns here as a darker, younger, much more energetic Bond. Unlike some of its predecessors, this film is decidedly Dalton’s. Little time is spent on the villains in comparison to Bond’s action. Sure, he doesn’t bag a dozen babes or even have his martinis as usual, but Dalton’s Bond is actually acting like a secret agent most of the time in The Living Daylights. Maybe some fans didn’t like this straightforward action against the tongue in cheek British style of the Connery and Moore eras; nevertheless, Dalton brings multidimensional depths and keeps Bond’s suave style. In previous productions, either the villain stole the show or there was never a doubt that Bond would win the day. In The Living Daylights, Bond’s KGB defections and switcheroos aren’t always so clear-cut. During Dalton’s tenure, there were times when I had to ask myself a Han Solo, ‘How is he going to get out of this one?’

I loved the late Desmond Llyewelyn’s Q, and I’m glad that he remained part of the franchise through nearly every Bond incarnation. His banter with Bond changes from time to time, but his love for his gadgets and his little old Englishman style is great fun. Don’t we all wish we had a Q? Unfortunately, I don’t like Caroline Bliss’ new young and Working Girl-esque Moneypenny. Joe Don Baker (later a CIA good guy Jack Wade in Goldeneye) has his moments in The Living Daylights as military aficionado Whitaker. His obsession with historical campaigns and dictators gives him a unique twist, but it isn’t explored to its full potential. Likewise, John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of The Rings, Indiana Jones) seems to have quite a small quotient of screen time in this two and a half hour yarn.

I like Marym d’Abo’s (Something Is Out There) unconventional Bond lady Kara Milovy. She’s a bit of a naïve artist rather than a femme fatale or a debutant. d’Abo is lovely, there is no doubt, but she’s an unconventional beauty, rather than an accepted goddess like some of the woman before and after. Although her accent gets on my nerves, I like that her hang-ups are both a wrench and an asset to Bond.

Though they are beginning to show some age, the action sequences in The Living Daylights are still fast-paced, exciting, and witty. Though outfitted with the hippest gadgets, Bond’s latest Aston Martin meets an early demise- but the sequence is well worth it. Some may find Kara’s cello toting action an annoying contrivance, but I like it. It’s a little geeky for Bond, no matter how many ways he can MacGyver the instrument. Although I enjoy keeping track of the numerous Bond Girls, there isn’t a lot of that kind of action in The Living Daylights. Some fan boys may not like that. However, the intelligent, cat and mouse, Bond versus the KGB intricacies keep the serious audience in tuned. Intriguing also to see Russian espionage and Afghanistan warfare from the late eighties, politics that are very different from what they were twenty years ago. Is The Living Daylights a thrilling, epic, Oscar worthy masterpiece? No. Can it still hold your attention as a sprawling action yarn? Yes.
If you’ve never liked the James Bond franchise because you thought it overblown with dated innuendo and ridiculous scenarios, reconsider with The Living Daylights. Though Dalton’s serious and realistic portrayal would fall out of favor, the series has rebooted with similar grit in blonde Bond Daniel Craig. I don’t understand why the current style is so praised and Dalton’s tenure is so unloved. Strangely, I would say this is one of the more family friendly films in the collection, for there’s hardly any of the tongue in cheek sex and double entrée names we love.
Compared to the violence and gore abound today, The Living Daylights can look like a complex, thrilling, adventure to appreciative younger audiences. Action fans and Bond obsessors alike can still enjoy The Living Daylights. With risk free rental choices, television airings, and on demand or online viewing possibilities, audiences can revisit this worthy Bond flick before taking on the DVD collections or bluray upgrade.


Anonymous said...

You've got me at 'Dalton is my favorite Bond!' Oh my goodness girl, we must be cut from the same cloth as I too think Dalton is an EXCELLENT Bond and I like Dalton as an actor outside of his 007 stints, most notably his role as Rochester in the BBC's 1983 miniseries.

I too am baffled by people's acceptance of Craig, though I like his version, he's not exactly eye-candy material like Dalton... tall, dark and handsome is really my kind of guy :D I think Dalton's dark, gritty portrayal was way ahead of its time and it's a pity he only did 2 Bond movies [screw MGM and their legal troubles!!]

My quibble is with Joe Don Baker however, but I like John Rhys-Davies so it kinda balances out.

Thanks for this review. I'm so glad we both share our appreciation for Peck and now Dalton, wahoo!

Kristin Battestella said...

Hi again, Ruth!

Yes I spent a good bit of time at your blog yesterday waxing on us being separated at birth!

I think I like Craig, I want to like Casino Royale, but Quantum was ugh. I don't think Craig has gotten to really get meaty with his Bond. Hopefully Skyfall will be good. I have written several back and forths on him!

My quibble with people loving Craig's brood, is how come no one likes Dalton's brood. What's the difference? I really hope to see Fassbender as Bond. He seems the combination of the two.

I have The Beautician and The Beast on my DVR, just saying! ;0)

I thought most of my Peck reviews were the short list ones, but I didn't realize that I do have a label for him with full length reviews. So many films, so little time!

Thanks again for visiting us!