The Living Daylights (1987) - The Dark Bond

The Living Daylights, just like its explosive name, was one of the defining movies in the series in more ways than one. Bond's 15th outing came 25 years after the start of the franchise, and was the first of Timothy Dalton's two Bond movies. The opinion on Dalton is largely divided, but he did succeed in playing what Bond really was, beyond all the charm and sophistication. But the problem here was, then Bond would just be another agent. But the movie did well and was widely appreciated for its dark, gritty and broody portrayal.

JAMES BOND - TIMOTHY DALTON (First Appearance)

Directed ByJohn Glen Produced byAlbert R. Broccoli Michael G. Wilson
Screenplay byRichard Maibaum Michael G. Wilson Based On: Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming
Theme Song: A-ha, Music: John Barry
Release date: 29 June 1987 Running Time: 2 hours 11 minutes
Bond Series: 15/23 Distributed byUnited Artists MGM
Budget: $40 million Gross Revenue: $191.2 million
Preceded by: A View to Kill (1985) Succeeded by: License to Kill (1989)

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BOND GIRL

MARIYAM D'ABO as KARA MILVOY - is a Cellist in an Orchestra and also KGB General Georgi Koskov's girlfriend. She is also presented as a sniper, though throughout the movie she wears the demeanor of Bambi the fawn, all Puppy-eyed and helpless, looking up to Bond all the time. She is innocent and easily deceived, so much so that she thinks Whitaker is a patron of the arts and betrays Bond to Koskov. But the intense Chemistry she shares with Bond throughout the movie makes the pretty, dainty and perpetually worried Kara one of the most memorable Bond Girls ever. Maryam is the only Bond Girl in the movie, which is a rarity, but was one of the better decisions.

MI6 AND OTHER ALLIES

ROBERT BROWN as M

DESMOND LEWELLYN as Q

John Terry as FELIX LEITER - Helps Bond by "arresting" him at Pushkin's staged assassination in Tangier. A considerably younger Felix.

Thomas Wheatley as SAUNDERS - MI6 Austria station chief. He lays the groundwork and gives Bond the orders during the extraction of Koskov and does the snooping around for Bond to dig up and provide the vital information about Koskov's activities, his connections with Whitaker and their plans. He is killed by Necros.

John Rhys-Davies as GENERAL LEONID PUSHKIN - Initially painted as the villain by the deceptive Koskov, he later turns out to be the good KGB guy who wants to bring the corrupt Koskov under wraps, but is targeted for this. He agrees to play along with Bond and that saves his life. In the end, he wields his powers as KGB chief to put Koskov down for good.

Art Malik - KAMRAN SHAH - Oxford educated, Kamran Shah is a leader of the local Mujahudeen forces fighting against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was imprisoned along with Bond and Kara by Koskov. Bond helps him escape and in return he and his men attack the Soviet base after an adamant Kara persists. Bond later saves them by blowing up a bridge from the plane hindering Soviet advances against them.

ANTAGONISTS AND THEIR ANTAGONISM

VILLAIN - GENERAL GEORGI KOSKOV (Jeroen Krabbe) - Koskov is a deceitful Soviet KGB General who will stop at nothing for money and power. He plays both sides of the Cold War - The Soviet Union and the West (Britain) - to his advantage, fooling both into thinking that the other have him while he tactically goes into hiding. He sincerely admires James Bond but uses him as part of his grand embezzlement plan. Koskov, for all his villainness, is portrayed as quite a jolly character. He is quite outgoing and always hugging and kissing everyone, quite different from the usual megalomaniac, monosyllabic and sandpaper-voiced Bond villains. General Pushkin catches up with him in the end and (presumably) has him executed.

VILLAIN - BRAD WHITAKER (Joe Don Baker)A private American arms dealer, he calls himself a "General" though he had never served in any armed forces and was once expelled from The United States Military Academy at West Point for cheating. He is fanatically obsessed with war and weapons and has recreated many war scenarios with miniature toy soldiers and other such equipment as a hobby. Though he is an important character, he has pretty little to do in the movie as he is not given enough screentime. He is killed by Bond who uses his exploding keychain to topple a statue onto him. Joe Don Baker would return as the CIA Agent Jack Wade in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

VILLAIN HENCHMAN - NECROS (Andreas Wisniewski) One of the series' most underrated henchmen, Necros' presence is overwhelming as a well-oiled killing machine. Though (presumably) a KGB asset, his loyalty lies only towards Koskov. He is killed at the end of one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in the series, when he grabs Bond's boot from falling from the plane and Bond cuts the boot free, sending him plunging to his death.

VILLAIN SCHEME - General Koskov plans to make a lot of money for himself by embezzling Soviet Diamonds meant to buy weapons for the KGB. He also wants Pushkin dead, for canceling the arms deal and for him to seize control. Since he can't use KGB assets to kill Pushkin, he plans to trick the British into killing him. The resulting war of sorts between the MI6 and the KGB would be helpful to cover his tracks also.

VILLAIN SCHEME MODUS OPERANDI - Koskov has brokered a deal between the KGB and "General" Brad Whitaker to supply latest-grade weapons for the KGB. But they plan to use that money to buy a large shipment of Opium from Afghanistan and sell it in the US, thereby generating profit many-fold making Whitaker and Koskov rich, while still having enough left over for the weapons for the KGB. It would also make him strong within the KGB to seize control. To get the British to kill Pushkin, Koskov would execute a fake defection to plant wrong information that General Pushkin was planning to kill all British spies as per KGB's rejuvenated "Smert Spionam" policy. This would make MI6 go out and kill Pushkin making KGB to retaliate, launching an all out war between the agencies, while Koskov would be left untroubled to carry out his scheme. He would also set up his girlfriend as a sniper and request Bond's presence during his "defection", as Bond would kill her and cover his tracks.

007 FACTSHEET

CARS - 1977 Aston Martin Vantage Volante V8 (Bond Car)

BOND CAR GADGETS - Extendable lateral support rails, Tyre Spikes, Lasers on the wheels, Smart Radio, Windshield HUD for missile targeting, Targeted Attack Missiles, Rear Rocket Booster Engine for jumps, Self Destruct Capability through explosion.

GADGETS - Walther 2000WA Sniper Rifle, Key Chain with knockout gas and explosive charge.

LOCATIONS - Gibraltar, London UK, Bratislava Czechoslovakia, Vienna Austria, Tangier Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan.

STATISTICS - "Bond, James Bond" 1, Direct Kills 3, Vodka Martinis 2, Romps 2, Captures 1, Tight Spots 5, Fights 6, Chases 3

VERY PUNNY, Mr.BOND! (Quotes from The Living Daylights)

General Georgi Koskov: "I'm sorry, James. For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying: duty has no sweethearts."
James Bond: "We have an old saying too, Georgi. And you're full of it."

Kara Milovy: "What happened?"
James Bond: "He got the boot."

James Bond: "Don't think. Just let it happen."

James Bond: "Lovely girl with the cello."
Saunders: "Forget the ladies for once, Bond."

James Bond: "STUFF my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn't know one end of her rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I'll thank him for it.:

James Bond: "Whoever she was, I must have scared the living daylights out of her."

PLOT & STORYLINE (Caution Spoilers)

During a training exercise in Gibraltar, agents 004 and 002 are killed with a note saying "Smert Spionam" (Death to Spies) found on 004's body. The assassin is also killed after a fight with Bond. Later, In Bratislava, 007 helps renegade KGB General Georgi Koskov defect to Britain. Noticing the sniper assigned to prevent Koskov's escape is a woman (Kara Milovy), he shoots her rifle out of her hands, ignoring his orders to kill her. MI6 learns from Koskov that KGB head General Leonid Puskhin has revived KGB's old Smert Spionam policy and hence he must be stopped, information deemed authentic because of the Gibraltar incident. Shortly afterwards, Necros attacks the safehouse and kidnaps Koskov, presumably back to the USSR. James Bond, assigned the task of killing Pushkin, returns to Bratislava and finding that Milovy is in fact Koskov's girlfriend, suspects the entire incident was staged. Saying he is Koskov's friend, Bond approaches Milovy and promises to take her to him. But the Czech police are after her and they escape to Austria after a lengthy chase. Later in Vienna, Saunders confirms Bond's suspicions. Saunders tells Bond about Koskov's shady dealings with "General" Brad Whitaker and about their scheme to supply arms to USSR embezzling Soviet money and having the British kill Pushkin. Soon after, Necros kills Saunders and leaves a balloon with "Smert Spionam" written on it to make Pushkin look the culprit. Learning that Pushkin is in Tangier, Morocco, Bond reaches there and confronts him, who denies any knowledge of any of these incidents and reveals that Koskov is being investigated by him for fraud. Bond then stages Pushkin's assassination saving him from Necros who was out to kill him as well. Koskov was in hiding all this time.

Thinking Pushkin is dead, Koskov contacts Milovy, who betrays Bond to him believing Koskov's words that Bond is a KGB assassin trying to kill him. They are flown to a Soviet Base in Afghanistan where Koskov ditches Milovy who is imprisoned along with Bond. They escape along with Kamran Shah and see Koskov loading a C130 Hercules transporter with Opium which would be transported to the USA in exchange for the diamonds the had bought with the Soviet funds for weapons. Bond plants a bomb on the plane but is discovered. Perusaded by Kara, Kamran and his men attack the base resulting in an all-out gunfight. Bond hijacks the plane and Kara joins him on it at the last minute. Bond kills Necros who had stowed away on the plane and disarms the bomb just in the nick of time. Later, Bond and Kara ditch the plane as it runs out of fuel and crashes somewhere in Pakistan. Bond then confronts Whitaker at his lair in Morocco and kills him after a cat-and-mouse game. General Pushkin and his men arrive there at the same time and fish out Koskov who was hiding there as well. Pushkin orders Koskov transported back to Moscow after presumably killing him. Bond returns to Europe and celebrates with Kara at a concert where she is the Cellist.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS TRIVIA

  • The woman appearing in the white negligee in the movie poster was American model Kathy Stangel.
  • Along with Timothy Dalton, other actors considered for the role of Bond were  Sam NeillMark GreenstreetLambert WilsonAntony Hamilton, Mel GibsonAndrew Clarke and Sean Bean.
  • Pierce Brosnan was supposed to play Bond, but he could not due to contractual agreements for the TV series Remington Steele.
  • Timothy Dalton was approached by Brocolli for the role in 1960, but he declined saying he was too young for it!
  • Maryam D'Abo was the last main Blonde Bond girl to date.
  • This movie was supposed to reboot the series, but they later dropped the idea. It still is a semi-reboot.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS SHAKEN AND STIRRED (Review)

The Living Daylights was a radically different Bond movie. It brought back real espionage and power wars between the Eastern and Western blocs during the Cold War to the franchise, and showed Bond doing what he really should have been doing. Many people have panned the movie for casting Timothy Dalton as James Bond, for the departure from traditional Bond-themes and for being to violent among others. But I would say that this movie was a welcome change by showing Bond in a different light. The movie has a classy opening with a high energy chase and fight sequence, which shows an agile, lean and mean Bond dressed in military combat gear running, jumping and generally doing things that Bond hadn't done in a long time. The only thing that wasn't cut out well was his introduction. The "Bond. James Bond" sounded hurried, forced and he sounded uncomfortable saying it.

The pace set by the pre-title sequence continues throughout the movie. It is fast, violent, abrasive and no-nonsense, just like Dalton's Bond. The violence is by no means muted and subtle as it was in most other Bond movies, but full, in your face and well, violent. The pre-title sequence, the fight in the kitchen between Necros and the MI6 agent, the airbase attack, the fight on the plane all can be said as examples. But the action scenes are phenomenal and define the movie, easily the best since Goldfinger and probably the best in the series, with the fight on the Hercules being frequently mentioned as one of the best Bond-scenes in history. Though unrealistic, the Cello case-slide was good, it is hard to look cool while sitting inside a Cello case. The most notable factor was the general absence of humor in the movie, and the few Bond-witticisms that are present fail to take off altogether. and the makers seemingly were hard-pressed to include some, which resulted in cringe worthy puns like "He got the boot!". The Afghanistan sequence was probably added to include the Soviet Occupation somehow, a Moore-era hangover.

The movie could have explained the plot better since Cold war stuff is sure to get complicated. Both villains are forgettable and could have been presented in a better way than a jolly general and a lobster-eating arms dealer. The classy Aston Martin, one of the most gadgetized cars in the franchise lights up the screen in the one chase sequence it gets and Bond seems almost sad to set it up for self-destruction. But the Bond-Kara relationship was definitely one of the highlights of the movie. I guess she was set up to be a sniper, and was not really one. There is an entire sequence showing Bond and Kara getting close to each other set against the backdrop of lovely Vienna looks very Bollywood-esque, and the fiery chemistry between the two almost wants one for them get married and settle down. This is not something not seen before and won't be seen again until the 2006 Casino Royale.

Bond Chemistry

TIMOTHY DALTON'S and THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS' LEGACY

After 15 years of Roger Moore's silliness and tomfoolery, James Bond had suddenly become serious. Timothy Dalton's 007 was what Ian Fleming always wanted Bond to be - a tough, dark and brooding assassin who would spare no humor to get his work done as ordered by Queen and country, no violence spared on whomsoever, which Dalton delivered. Dalton also seemed to lack the general suaveness that Connery brought in, preferring to choose the more violent and direct method to get his work done, rather than charm or joke his way into it like his predecessors. Maybe it was the preconceived notions set about Bond and his mannerisms that lead to this, or that he did not toe the  proved Bond-line that led to the widespread dissing of him, since people had got used to Moore-styled films. And for reflective reviewers of today, his presence in the franchise is minimal at best to make any profound impact. But he did well in The Living Daylights, and played for the creator of James Bond. I feel that Dalton was in reality the precursor of Daniel Craig who would come to play Bond 15 years later. Craig's and Dalton's Bonds have a lot in common, and their critics too. Anyway, history would remember Timothy Dalton and The Living Daylights for launching James Bond on a new path, contemporary to the era it was set in, a fast-paced "true" spy movie with fantastic actions scenes and for providing a refreshing break from the usual formula Bond movies. Is it a good movie? Yes. Is it a good Bond movie? A matter of perspective.

THE LIVING VERDICT

THE GOOD - Timothy Dalton, Storyline, Action Sequences, Maryam D'Abo, Dark and Gritty James Bond

THE BAD - Too Serious, Cheesy Villains, Confusing Screenplay, Some Plot Holes, Not a "Bond" movie.

BONDSCALE - 7 Stars out of 10, 8th Best out of 22 Movies

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