The Living Daylights (1987)
a Darker James Bond
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
The Living Daylights is the 15th James Bond film which stars Timothy Dalton as 007, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker and John Rhys-Davies. This time Bond is tasked to protect a defecting KGB agent, only things aren't always what they first appear.
Yet another new face for 007! Welcome to the Timothy Dalton era of Bond films, which is the shortest of them all, not counting the one-shot disaster within the Sean Connery era. Was it because his movies were bad? Well, if this movie is any indication, definitely not.
Actually Dalton was supposed to replace Connery when he retired his licence to kill, but gave the role up to Moore only to accept it afterwards. In many ways, the franchise may have been better if he just accepted the first time. His portrayal of a darker, more realistic James Bond is the first time we actually see 007 as a secret agent since the very early movies, and they didn't suck this time. I guess the 3rd time's the charm.
Instead of focusing on romance or wacky plots, The Living Daylights focused more on the characters, especially James Bond and Kara Milovy, his new partner in crime. By focusing more on their relationship, and how the events were effecting them, we saw something new in the franchise: actual emotion! This made all those nail-biting action scenes feel even more intense since we actually feel for these characters.
Some people may not care for Milovy's weak emotional state, though. Unlike the stronger female characters in the past few Bond films, Maryam d'Abo's character felt like an everyday woman who was pulled into the terrifying world of murder and espionage. To me, her reactions and lack of strength just made sense. Better yet, throughout this movie, we got to see her character strengthen and harden from everything she was being put through, yet her personality never changed. It was the perfect example on how a realistic character-arc should be!
The only thing that held The Living Daylights back was the lack of a fantastic villain. Much of that was thanks to us not really knowing who the mastermind was. So much of the movie focused on the subordinates, so we didn't really learn very much about the man pulling the strings, and what we did learn wasn't very sinister. He had a solid plan, but his goals just weren't ambitious enough.
I absolutely loved John Rhys-Davies character. He didn't get as much screen-time as I would have liked, but every time this man was in the scene, it just felt special. He just made his character feel so different from the other Russian characters this franchise had.
I think it's obvious that I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. This is definitely one of those must-watch action movies! Nothing about the previous movies are needed, and you don't even need to know who James Bond is before watching this film. Everything a viewer needs to enjoy this movie is all there. Even with the weaker villain, and the fragile female lead, this movie is still one of the great action movies of the 1980s, and is unquestionably one of the best of all the Bond movies.
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