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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Living Daylights


The Living Daylights is generally better than it's regarded as being. Timothy Dalton succeeds Roger Moore as James Bond for an enjoyable Cold War spy adventure set in Czechoslovakia, England, Vienna, and Afghanistan. As 007 tries to unravel a labyrinthine plot involving a defector Russian general (a delightful Jeroen Krabbe), his superior officer (John Ryes-Davies), and an American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker), The Living Daylights attempts to deliver more action and intrigue, yet doesn't completely divorce itself from the excesses of Moore's films, as a ski chase with Bond escaping while riding a cello case indicates. Baker would reappear in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films as CIA agent Jack Wade, while Felix Leiter is portrayed here all-too-briefly by John Terry, who would go on to play Christian Shepherd on Lost. Ryes-Davies is sorely underutilized. It being the 1980s with AIDS a full-blown epidemic in the news, Bond's famous promiscuity is eliminated entirely. The Living Daylights is sparse on sex and Bond Girls, with Maryam D'Abo as the only one of note, playing a Czech cellist caught in the web of lies of her Soviet consorts. For his part, Dalton brings a ruthless, steely efficiency to 007 not seen since Sean Connery's heyday and exceeded only by Daniel Craig 20 years later. And yet, Dalton also sports a glint in his eye, enjoying being Bond in a way Craig has yet to display. As Bond finds himself in Afghanistan in the middle of the Afghani-Soviet conflict while A-Ha provides the opening theme, one is reminded that The Living Daylights is absolutely set in the 1980's.