Ranking Bond: #22 – The Living Daylights (1987)
When you sit down to do something like this, your immediate thought about what the bottom film is going to be usually goes to two films. Instinctively, you probably go, “Die Another Day.” But then when you think about it for a half a second after that, you go, “No… Octopussy.” Because those are by consensus (or just by immediate thought) the two worst Bond films.
But then, when I started watching this again, I went, “Whoa… I didn’t know this was a contender.” I knew I didn’t care for this film. I knew that, of the two Dalton films, I liked Licence to Kill a lot more than I liked The Living Daylights. But I only figured this would be like, #19. And as I started watching this movie (and you’ll see it as I write the synopsis), I kept going, “Wow… I really don’t like this.” (Relatively, of course.) And I’d watched Octopussy just before it. So I was actually able to directly compare my opinions.
The thing that differentiated them for me (since I’m pretty sure most people’s bottom three Bond films would generally be the same) was that — Die Another Day is just overdone. It’s not horrible, it just takes things to unnecessary levels, and that makes it bad. Octopussy is just bad. It’s a bad Bond movie. It’s like a Bond movie going through the motions. But this — this to me didn’t even feel like a Bond movie. It felt like a Bond movie the way Live Free or Die Hard felt like a Die Hard movie — I know it was by name, but it certainly didn’t feel like one, and it really just ruined (for me) a lot of the core elements of what a Bond movie is supposed to be. So the result to me is less interesting than even Octopussy, because at least there, I can go, “Well at least it’s Bond.” Here, I’m like, “I don’t even know what I’m watching. Bond wouldn’t do this.”
I struggled over what was going to be #22 for a while, but every time I thought about it, I kept coming back to this one. So this is how we start our list, with what I consider to be the weakest Bond movie of the series.
This is our first Timothy Dalton Bond movie, so we have to show his gun barrel walk.
The cold opening begins – what the fuck is this, Saving Private Ryan?
Meets The Shining?
To be fair, it’s more dramatic than Bond in with a fake mustache at a Cuban horse show. But we haven’t seen that yet.
Whatever. M is briefing his men before a training exercise. One of those ones where his men face another commander’s men, and he really wants to win to show his squad is the best. That sort of thing. Their objective is to penetrate (already this is a good assignment for Bond) the radar installations of Gibraltar. When the SAS knows they’re coming.
Also, can we talk about how M has a full office in a fucking airplane?
So anyway, the men go off on their “exercise.”
One of the double-o’s gets popped real fast.
Only someone’s not aware this is an exercise.
And that’s when we get our first look at Bond. James Bond. (As played by Timothy Dalton.)
Let’s talk about Timothy Dalton as Bond. We’ll update it when we get to Licence to Kill, but let’s just take a moment to talk about how Timothy Dalton handles James Bond in this particular film.
Part of the reason this movie is so unsettling to watch back-to-back with a Roger Moore film is that Timothy Dalton’s Bond is sort of dark. He’s still collected and debonair, but he’s more about getting the job done than he is about the quips along the way. Just like George Lazenby, he was concerned with bringing out the Bond of the novels, which meant taking focus off the sex and comedy. Rather than finding that sweet spot that Connery and Craig have, Dalton took it too far in the other direction, even to the point of psychological distress.
Whether or not he’s taking martinis on screen, you know that this is the Bond who’s headed for an early grave from alcohol abuse. For all his weak points — and there are many — Dalton’s appreciation for reality brought Bond back from the brink of pure fantasy to a more believable plane. He messed up with this movie, but came away with a decent film in Licence to Kill.
Naturally he goes after the traitor.
And there’s a thrilling little chase.
And he fucks a bitch.
It’s funny. This opening feels a lot like a commentary on Timothy Dalton. It’s not real action, it’s a training exercise. It’s almost like they’re using this as a training exercise to see if he’s worth staying as Bond. (We all know how that worked out.) Also – his bit of dialogue as Bond is so – not Bond. Bond would never use the phone first. He’d flirt, then ask for the phone, before the sex. Here, Dalton’s objective is to report in, and then he’s tempted to stay by the champagne once his duty is complete. Nuh uh. That ain’t Bond. Plus the way he says “Bond. James Bond” – not a good delivery.
Anyway – credit sequence. Set to A-ha’s “The Living Daylights.”
Very light on screenshots, this one. Actually not a very good credits sequence. We then open in Bratislava, that tropical paradise. You know things are bad when Bond is in Bratislava. (They don’t even have Miami Wice yet.)
What’s in Bratlislava? A concert. Bond is meeting a dude from the Vienna section house. Agent Saunders. The dude is upset because Bond is late. (And because he’s in fucking Bratislava.) Bond says, “We have time.” No quip. No joke. He’s very serious about it. You can’t be late and be upset that he’s calling you out on your seriousness. Pick one. They’re there to get this guy:
Bond is more interested in this girl:
They leave to get in position across the street. Bond’s jacket turns into a slightly darker black turtleneck.
And they get the essentials.
But it’s not an assassination. The guy is defecting. They need to make sure no one shoots the guy before they can bring him in.
That guy by the way, is General Koskov. He’s eventually going to be our Bond villain. But we’ll wait to talk about him, since for now we think he’s a good guy.
We find out that Koskov asked for Bond specifically to be the sniper protecting him. Already a red flag. (Get it? Red flag. Because they’re Communists.)
Bond and Saunders keep watch for counter snipers as the dude slips out a side window.
Only – there’s another sniper. The cello lady. She’s Kara Milovy, who will be our Bond girl. But more on her later. Now she’s got a fucking rifle.
Bond doesn’t kill her, though. He shoots the rifle.
Bond then takes over the escape.
He brings Koskov to a pipeline, which is also an escape route.
They load him into a pipe and shoot him into Austria.
Where he’s met by Q. And is then loaded into a plane and sent out of there.
It’s cool that they used the super British Hawker Harrier vertical takeoff/landing plane to do this, especially having it come out of a building.
Fun fact: the Harrier made its screen debut on a 1966 episode of The Saint, starring Roger Moore.
Saunders wants to report Bond for deliberately missing Kara, but he says she had no idea how to use her rifle. Bond only kills professionals. (Plus he wants to fuck her.)
“Whoever she was, it must have scared the living daylights out of her.” Get it?
Oh look, we have a new Moneypenny. (I’d say let’s talk about her, but she really has nothing to do here.) And new gadgets.
Poor Radio Raheem.
Did he just pat her on the ass? Connery would have never led her on like that. Only with words, dude.
Oh look – Bond car.
This isn’t actually the Bond car, it’s Aston Martin being clever — but more on that later.
Bond arrives at a country villa (gorgeous estate) for the debriefing of Koskov. Koskov gives them information that General Pushkin, the new head of the KGB, has reinstated a program designed to kill spies. Smert Spionam. “Death to Spies.” Meanwhile Necros, our main henchman for the film, who likes to kill people with headphones (fucking really?) gets onto the estate, posing as a milkman.
There’s a nice little kitchen fight with Necros and a random agent. The agent holds his own for a good while. But Necros manages to beat him.
Oh no! Exploding milk bottles! Just like in the Crusades.
Necros then takes Koskov hostage and gets out of there on a medical helicopter. Somehow Bond is nowhere to be seen during this entire sequence.
A word about Necros.
Necros is awful. He’s a KGB agent who works for Koskov, and the things you just saw him do constitute about eighty percent of his purpose for this film. He has a Walkman that he listens to and uses to strangle people with. His ending is also upsetting, but we’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say that you’d be hard pressed to find someone with Necrosphilia.
Meanwhile, M wants Bond to go kill Pushkin. Bond doesn’t want to do it because he thinks it’s “far-fetched.” He wants to check out that sniper lady instead. M tells him he can go fuck himself – either he’s doing this or he’s taking two weeks’ vacation. Bond takes the mission.
Now’s a good time to talk about the Bond car.
This still isn’t the Bond car we see in action, and I’ll explain why. The car we see at the country estate is the same 1985 Aston Martin V8 Volante we see here, now being fitted with a hardtop for winterization. Later scenes use the proper coupe version — the V8 Mk IV — which is almost indistinguishable from Q’s hardtop version but way more stable and rigid for stunt driving. These Astons are the fourth best of five total Bond Astons — only the Die Another Day Vanquish was worse. Still, it’s not really bad. It has outriggers for stability in snow, rocket propulsion, a HUD, self-destruct, spiked tires and missiles. We also get the laser version of the DB5’s tire shredders, which was a bit much. All the same, we once again get to see a Bond car show its stuff like the DB5 did in Goldfinger, which is good.
(Mike Note: I like that I can just spout whatever and know I have someone who knows their shit enough to correct me.)
And gadgets – a key ring finder with stun gas in it. And it’s also a plastic explosive. And has a universal key in it. It’s basically a Deus ex Swiss Army Knife. Let’s talk about the gadgets:
This is the film’s gadget. A key that’s said to open approximately ninety percent of the world’s locks and two covert weapons. The first is knock-out gas that is released when Bond whistles the first part of ‘Rule Britannia.’ Does it have to be him whistling? You’d think they’d have made it a song that wasn’t played by the Royal Army and Navy all the time. The other weapon is a plastic explosive set off by a wolf whistle. This comes in handy later, and makes this a pretty unique gadget in Bond history.
Moneypenny then finds Kara. (Wait, so she’s no longer M’s secretary? What the cock is that shit?) And Bond goes back to Bratislava. (Because he just wasn’t driven close enough to suicide the first time.)
This concert is about as packed as Charles Lampert’s funeral. (Ten points if you got that.)
And Bond follows her onto the streetcar (which is probably named Lenin). Where some police goons take off her, leaving her cello behind.
Bond takes the cello, naturally. And upon further inspection –
Can’t play a concerto with that. But more importantly…
I know where you live, bitch! Ah ah!
“I dropped the gun in the river.” Really, Bond? How about a fucking quip? Stop being so serious. I used to think it was Dalton that didn’t fit. Now I’m thinking it’s that they fucked up the character trying to make it fit Dalton (or the times). He shouldn’t be this serious all the time. Maybe it’s a reaction to the Moore years. Either way. Whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, this does not work.
Anyway, Bond realizes she’s Koskov’s girlfriend, and that Koskov staged the defection and fed them false information. He pretends he’s on Koskov’s side. He brings her with him, her thinking she’s going to meet up with the general.
The old hat and coat in the phone booth trick. Just like the Boxer Rebellion.
A word about Kara, while there’s a lull.
Kara is the third (and worst) of four “main” Bond girls from Russia. She’s the only one of those four who doesn’t work for the government — she’s a cellist. I don’t find her particularly stunning, but she does have the honor of being the most recent “main” Bond girl to be blonde. As for her character, there isn’t a whole lot to say. This is one of the Bond girls who is nominally involved with the ongoing plot, but who has little or no understanding about the events unfolding around her. An agent without agency.
Bond and Koskov both use her to get to the other, and she only figures out right from wrong after she’s made a mess of things. In the end, she’s rewarded with a special visa that allows her to perform anywhere in the world. I can’t help but think of that as the sort of thing that would happen in a Pokémon game. But this character is basically just along for the ride, made literal by several scenes in which she sits in the Aston’s passenger seat listening to Bond talk. Like here:
She says they have to go back and get her cello. He says no goddamn way.
Connery would have never let this happen.
And the chase is on.
Oh… his wheels have lasers.
And – missiles. Well that’s just poor compensation.
Just one behind each foglight? Wait til Die Another Day.
(Mike Note: Trust me, you won’t have to wait long.)
Hey look – these fuckers can shoot. These aren’t your father’s henchmen.
Still not too bright, though.
Of course it has skis.
And a rocket booster.
Burt Reynolds would have made that jump without rockets.
And a self-destruct button. Great.
What is with the self destruct buttons everywhere? I can live with Bond discarding women when he’s through with them, but not the cars. There will always be more young, aspiring actresses who want to be Bond girls, but there will only ever be 352 Aston Martin V8 Mk IVs.
So that happened.
And they make it over the border.
Border should be spelled b-o-r-e-d-e-r.
Then we cut to Tangier. Finally – someplace nice looking.
Here we meet both General Pushkin and Brad Whitaker. Mostly Brad. We’ll get to Pushkin later.
Motherfucker loves some war.
Whitaker’s an arms dealer, and Pushkin has come to cancel his order. He wants his $50 million back. Whitaker says he can’t do that. Puskin then basically berates him, saying he’s no army man, he got kicked out of West Point for cheating. He also figures Whitaker has some sort of scheme, and says that it’s over. (“Pay me my money,” basically, is the point here.)
A word about Whitaker.
Joe Don Baker was better as a good guy. Brad Whitaker is an American arms dealer who is working with General Koskov to do evil stuff. He’s really nothing more than a huge man-child who likes to play war games with miniature figurines. He also has a creepy collection of “military genius” sculptures like Hitler and Caesar, but all made to look like him. He waxes poetic about war and finally engages Bond in one of the least satisfying endings imaginable.
Baker comes back as the CIA’s Jack Wade, who was Felix Leiter’s replacement for the Brosnan years. After Charles Gray, he’s the second actor to play a Bond villain and an ally in different films, but he’s the first to do so with different Bond actors.
Bond and Kara arrive in Vienna. She’s enamored with Koskov. Bond looks like a schoolboy in love. (What the fuck?)
Also – he’s kidnapped her, yes? And only now is getting around to what M told him to do. So basically he’s disobeyed orders and kidnapped a woman. Just so we’re clear what’s going on.
He goes to a hotel, and the clerk goes to give him his “usual room.” And he says, “not tonight. I need something with a second bedroom.” This isn’t Bond.
Why did they try to pass off the Schonbrunn Palace as a hotel? I’ve been there — it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Vienna. This is like if Moore’s hotel in Octopussy was the Taj Mahal. People recognize it.
He does order a martini, “shaken, not stirred,” but honestly I think that’s only so Dalton could say the line.
Anyway, Koskov is clearly not over Kara.
Oh look – they work for Whitaker.
A word about Koskov, while we’re here, to get it out of the way.
Are we still talking about characters in this movie? I have nothing left to give. Koskov is a Soviet general who’s involved with Whitaker in arms dealing and the drug trade. He fakes his own defection at the beginning using Kara (who he clearly loves. At least enough to set her up to get shot by Bond) and then busts out of the safe house with Necros. We’ve pretty much figured out that he’s bad by the time the action begins, though, which means the emphasis has to shift to Whitaker. They don’t even give Koskov a boss ending, cause he wasn’t really worth it.
Whitaker wants to have Necros kill Pushkin, but Koskov says that Bond has been sent to do it, and that all they need to do is kill another agent to convince the British the Pushkin lie about Smert Spionam is serious and Bond will kill him for them.
Bond then meets Saunders. He has him look into where Koskov would have gotten the money to buy Kara her cello. Saunders tells Bond he’ll meet him at the amusement park at midnight.
This shot should not be happening:
In a real Bond movie, they’d have fucked by now.
Oh, now they fuck. On a ferris wheel. Which is a nice touch, but too little too late. Sex is for closers.
Bond then meets Saunders, who tells him Whitaker bought the cello.
Only as Saunders leaves –
Bond then goes after Necros, but can’t find him.
Are those tears? Is he crying? Are YOU crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in Bond!
Oh… somebody call the Wahh-mbulance. This is fast becoming my least favorite Bond movie.
Bond then goes to Tangier to check out Whitaker. He sees Pushkin leaving and follows him.
Yeah, put on the goggles, maybe that’ll make it look like you didn’t just cry.
Bond then sneaks into Pushkin’s mistress’s hotel room and has a chat with him.
Pushkin has no idea what Smert Spionam is. They don’t do that no more. Motherfucker, that was weeks ago!
Bond asks where Koskov is, Pushkin says he doesn’t know. Says Koskov disappeared two weeks earlier, right before he was going to be arrested for misusing state funds. Pushkin then hits the panic button on his watch, and Bond has a, shall we say, interesting way of distracting Pushkin’s bodyguard.
Bond then asks Pushkin why he shouldn’t kill him despite his orders saying he should. Pushkin asks him flat out which of the two he trusts – him or Koskov. Bond says, “If I trusted Koskov, we wouldn’t be talking.” Which is a nice line.
He then tells Koskov that as long as he’s alive, he’ll never know what Koskov is up to.
And Pushkin, to his credit, says, “Then I must die.”
That scene actually just made me rethink this movie.
Let’s use this opportunity to talk about Pushkin. (He’s no Vladimir Zukovsky.)
Agreed. He had some okay lines, but nothing too great. I spent most of his screen time trying to think up jokes relating the plot of this movie to other John Rhys-Davies roles. Dwarf tossing, brother in law’s car, that stuff. One sad thing about Pushkin is that he’s replaced General Gogol as the head of the KGB. Gogol was always just a little better than this. This feels vulnerable. But Pushkin was a one-time deal anyway, so it didn’t really matter.
Bond then fakes Pushkin’s assassination. Which kind of ruins how I just felt. I feel like there’s a good movie in here somewhere, I’m just not seeing it.
And Bond escapes via the rooftops. (I just had a Quantum flashback. Which I guess means I had a Bourne flashback.)
Bond is then aided in his escape by two women who are clearly about to pull a gun on him.
See? How does he not see that coming? Ever?
But it’s cool – they work for Felix. 1980s Felix. Who looks like he just came out of a fucking aerobics video. Do we need to talk about Felix? He’s not really in the movie, and doesn’t really have too much to do. (Or maybe it’s just that I’m spoiled by present-day Felix, who, while he hasn’t had too much to do, at least has a screen presence. This dude could be just another contact and we wouldn’t really notice.)
Yeah, Felix. That’s the good shit. Anyway, they realize they’re both working on the same case. This leads to nothing.
Bond then returns home to Kara, who is so clearly about to spike his drink it’s ridiculous he doesn’t see it, since she’s spoken to Koskov and he’s told her that Bond is not his friend.
Bond tells her the truth – he’s an agent, and Koskov set her up to be killed. Naturally she doesn’t believe him – you lied once, why wouldn’t you be lying now, sort of thing. The usual act two bullshit you see in romantic comedies (another reason why I can’t take this movie seriously as a Bond movie. Why does this have the same progression as a fucking Adam Sandler movie?).
Oh, who didn’t see that coming? Bond didn’t. That’s who.
And before he passes out, he tells her he’s the man who was sent to kill her that night, and naturally she realizes he hasn’t been lying and feels terrible, since she just gave him up to Koskov.
They then go to pull that medical transport bullshit with Bond.
Subtle. Real subtle.
They’re pretending he’s a fucking transplant patient. Why would you randomly have a beating heart?
So you could eat it and increase the strength of your own beating heart.
Then, on the plane, Bond naturally pretends to be unconscious and waits for Necros to take a piss. He sees that the heart is bullshit – just some animal heart. What they really have in there is diamonds.
So the heart actually is on ice.
(This is me basking in the glow of that twenty second standing ovation you just gave me.)
All right, we’re good.
Anyway, Koskov tells Bond he’s about to take him to Russian authorities for killing Puskin. He’s going to say he was on a secret mission and that his defection was a fake, so he’ll come out the hero and everything will be hunky dory.
He takes Bond to Afghanistan – that tropical paradise.
He also fucks over Kara, to no one’s surprise but hers. Bond then gets hold of his key ring and —
Then a fight scene, naturally.
Oh no! The dreaded Asian face squish! (Just like Andre the Giant used against the Macho Man Randy Savage.)
And he locks up the guards and frees a shifty-ass A-rab that’s hanging in the cells.
“You did it! We’re free!” “Bitch, we’re inside a Russian Air Force base in the middle of Afghanistan.”
Bond and Kara then sneak around the base to get the fuck out of there without being seen.
So Bond and the chick jump the fence and are immediately captured by the Mujahideen. (This is reminding me of another movie I’d rather be watching right now.)
But the dude Bond freed is part of them, so they aren’t killed. (So shines a good deed in a weary world.)
They’re then taken to the Mujahideen headquarters, where the dude they freed reveals himself as a highly educated dude, Kamran Shah.
Let’s talk about Shah.
This guy reminded me a bit of Sheik Hosein from The Spy Who Loved Me. Rich, powerful Arab who studied abroad in England and has come back home to be a boss. Only, Hosein was an old friend of Bond’s who offered him concubines from his harem. Shah is a pushy freedom fighter who doesn’t seem to care very much about Bond’s plight. Somebody should put him back in jail.
He’s not concerned with Bond’s shit, only about his men. Which makes sense. Only Bond has shit to do.
Bond and Kara have a scene together that shouldn’t be anywhere near a Bond film. Basically the point is that he’s going back to the base. But you’d think it was fucking From Here to Eternity or something, the way they played it.
All right, soundstage!
As Bond rides with Shah and his men, he realizes they’re smuggling opium.
And selling it to the Russians.
But Shah actually makes a good case for it. He doesn’t care if the Russians die from his bullets or the opium. Plus, he needs the money to buy guns to shoot the Russians with. This I can understand. What’s weird is that the Russians are giving them money to buy guns so they can be shot at, but from what I know about Afghanistan in the 80s, that’s pretty much what everyone did.
Diamonds Are For Arms Deals.
Bond then sneaks onto the opium truck.
And Kara chases after it with a gun, on a horse. All right.
And Shah and his men follow for some reason.
It’s like that moment in that Simpsons episode where Lisa is Joan of Arc and runs into battle. And the rest of them are like, “We’re right behind you,” and let her run off alone. And then Wiggum is like, “Oh, shit, is that my supervisor looking over here? CHARGE!” That’s what this felt like.
And oh look – Bond gets back to the base anyway.
He puts some opium laced with explosives on board, set to detonate in ten and a half minutes.
Then Koskov and Necros see him and he starts firing.
This shot brings back memories… good thing that’s not a Klobb.
Lawrence of Saudi Arabia.
Bond then starts driving the plane, because – well, who cares that there’s a bomb on it?
Kara (stupid bitch) goes after the plane. In a jeep.
Koskov and Necros go after her. In a jeep.
Look at him. Even he’s like, “Stupid bitch, GET OFF THE RUNWAY!”
You deserve everything you get.
Bond then has her drive onto the plane… where a bomb is. And they take off. Bond gives Kara control of the plane (why would you do that?), telling her to keep it straight, and goes to defuse the bomb.
Welcome to the party, pal.
Kara then decides, “Well I’ll just open the door and fly upward. That’ll certainly kill the bad guy and not James.”
YOU HAD ONE JOB!
Bye, bye drugs.
Bond then cuts off his shoe, which Necros is holding onto.
He’ll be fine.
Bond then diffuses the bomb and everything’s cool again.
ONLY THE STUPID BITCH IS ABOUT TO DRIVE THEM INTO A FUCKING MOUNTAIN! Now I fully understand the term “pilot error.”
This is basically a visual epigram of what we did in Afghanistan, isn’t it?
The Bridge on the River Kuwait?
Bond and Kara then run out of fuel.
So that happened.
My quantum of solace for this movie is zero.
“We were somewhere outside Islamabad, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”
Bond then goes to Whitaker’s place in Tangier.
He finds Whitaker playing with his war set ups like a fucking child.
Bond tells him it’s over for him.
Naturally he won’t go quietly.
He has a gun with a bulletproof shield on it. So just shoot him in the fucking stomach.
Right? It’s like in the Die Another Day hovercraft fight when Brosnan holds a bulletproof vest over his upper torso, and Moon puts like ten bullets into it, dead center. It’s this new place called anywhere fucking else, that’s where you shoot.
Bond then uses his key ring to blow up Whitaker.
It is now the only Bond gadget from Q to have definitively killed a main Bond villain. The only other that you can make a case for is the dart gun in Moonraker, but that doesn’t finish the job.
HENCHMAN OUT OF NOWHERE!
“I didn’t do that.”
You’d think the henchman would have seen the head of the KGB and three soldiers behind him before he burst into the room.
Anyway, Koskov is arrested, and we cut to Kara playing her cello in Vienna.
This movie is worth it for this one line:
Shah and his men arrive and he says, “Sorry we were late, we missed the concert. We had some trouble at the airport.” And M turns to General Gogol and says, “I can’t imagine why.”
9/11 actually makes that line funnier. How often can you say that?
Am I the only one imagining an M – Gogol Lemon Party?
(Mike Note: Yes.)
Anyway, Kara goes back to her dressing room (upset that Bond is “on assignment”), and finds this.
I would love to see that sitting in my dressing room.
And it’s all happy and shit.
Then, mercifully, it’s over.
Final Thoughts on The Living Daylights:
This movie is really, really, really bad. I put it at #21, making it only slightly better than Octopussy in my eyes. I make that distinction because if we consider the ideal Bond persona to be Connery and Craig, I’d rather err on the side of Ian Fleming than Roger Moore. That is to say, I consider Dalton in this film and Moore in Octopussy to both be “un-Bond” but I’m more willing to accept Dalton because he’s true to the novels, at least.
What it boils down to is what you consider to be at Bond’s core — the comedy, or the action. I think the Craig reboot has done an excellent job of cutting the franchise down to its bare bones, so my final test was trying to imagine Craig getting a bit weepy after someone (even a random someone) died like Dalton did or doing Roger Moore’s vine-swinging Tarzan ape call. And to me, the tears seem more plausible. It’s still an awful film by any measure, but it’ll never be quite as unforgivable as Octopussy to me.
My Final Thoughts:
It’s a real tough call for me, between this and Octopussy. But I think the real clincher was that Octopussy — I just laughed at or shook my head disapprovingly. This film I actually got mad at. It upset me that they did what they did to Bond. I get that it’s a lot closer to the Bond in the novels, and by that account, yeah, I probably should have this at 21 instead of 22, but that initial reaction as I was watching it this time of, “Holy shit, this is bad” — I had to put it here. Either way, I like that we can both agree that this and Octopussy are at the bottom of the list.
– – – – –
Official Bond Number: #15
Release Date: July 29, 1987 (London Premiere)
July 31, 1987 (General Release)
Run Time: 131 minutes
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $51.2 million domestically, $191.2 million worldwide
Title Song: “The Living Daylights,” by A-ha
Music By: John Barry
Based On: “The Living Daylights,” short story by Ian Fleming
Director: John Glen
Writer: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson
First Lines: “Gentlemen, this may only be an exercise so far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned. But for me, it is a matter of pride that the 00 section has been chosen for this test. Your objective is to penetrate the radar installations of Gibralter. Now, the SAS has been placed on full alert to intercept you, but I know you won’t let me down. Good luck, men.”
Last Lines: “You didn’t think I’d miss this performance, did you?” “Oh, James…”
– – – – –
– – – – –
- Brad Whitaker (I feel like even though Koskov is more actively a villain, Whitaker is the main villain in the film.)
- Kara Milovy
- General Koskov
Secondary Bond Girl:
Bond Villain Chick:
- Felix Leiter
- Kamran Shah
- Rosika Miklos
Other Important Characters:
- General Puskin (kind of a villain, being Soviet, but also kind of an ally. Mostly an ally, but still, we’ll leave him neutral. Cold War respect.)
– – – – –
- Gibraltar (opening sequence)
- Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Koskov’s escape/Kara’s apartment, etc.)
- Tangier, Morocco (Whitaker’s place)
- Vienna, Austria (Bond and Kara’s — sojourn)
- Afghanistan (the Soviet air base)
- Baluchistan, Pakistan (after the plane sequence, before they go to get Whitaker)
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- Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante
- Gadgets: spikes for driving on ice, skis, bulletproof windows, front missiles, tire laser, rocket booster, self-destruct button.
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- The pipeline that smuggles people from East Germany into Austria.
- The key ring that has stun gas (set to go off when the first few bars of “Rule Britannia” are whistled), an explosive charge (when a wolf whistle is given) and a lock pick (that can open 90% of all locks).
- Binoculars in eyeglass frames.
- The “Ghetto Blaster” — rocket in a boombox.
- The sofa that eats up whoever sits on it.
- Technically… Pushkin’s watch that alerts his bodyguard.
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- Before Timothy Dalton was cast as Bond, the producers considered Sam Neill, Mel Gibson, Mark Greenstreet, Lambert Wilson, Antony Hamilton, Findlay Light, Andrew Clarke and Sean Bean. Neill impressed producers, but Albert Broccoli wasn’t sold on him .They also were going to cast Pierce Brosnan, and even offered him the role, only he was contracted to star in Remington Steele for NBC, which had been cancelled. Only when they found out he’d be cast as Bond, they picked up his option (on the last day they could do it) to star in a new season of the show. Albert Broccoli then withdrew the offer and said, “Remington Steele will not be James Bond.” And to make matters worse, NBC only shot five episodes of Remington Steele and then cancelled it again. So fuck NBC, is the message here.
- The producers originally considered Dalton for Bond in the late 60s after Connery left after You Only Live Twice. They offered him On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he turned it down, saying he was too young. He also turned down Diamonds Are Forever, citing the same reason. They considered him again for For Your Eyes Only, but turned it down because they didn’t have a script. He also turned down Octopussy and A View to a Kill, citing previous commitments. So it’s safe to say he wanted nothing to do with this role.
- Maryam d’Abo was only hired to do screen tests with the actors testing for Bond. I guess they said, “Well fuck it, let’s just keep her.” (Apparently she also tested for Pola Ivanova in A View to a Kill.)
- Apparently the same things Bond brings to Koskov at the safe house (Bollinger, caviar and foie gras) are the same items in his suitcase at the health clinic in Thunderball (and unofficially, Never Say Never Again).
- The film is based on a short story in “Octopussy and The Living Daylights,” which was the final Ian Fleming James Bond novel that was published (#14), his second posthumous book after “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Mostly the story is about Bond acting as a counter-sniper as a British agent escapes East Berlin. He’s there to make sure a KGB assassin named “Trigger” doesn’t kill him. And while he waits (over three days), he’s pretty depressed and not wanting to be doing his job, he watches a beautiful cellist, who turns out to be the sniper. But then Bond decides not to kill the cellist, and instead shoots her rifle. And Bond’s decision not to kill her makes the mission (which is otherwise successful) be considered a failure. And it ends with Bond hoping M fires him for it.
- This is the last movie to show a bevy of women around some sort of palace or villa or something. (Here it’s the women around Whitaker’s pool.)
- This is really the only time where a major villain is played by an actor who would also play an ally in a Bond film. Joe Don Baker, after playing Brad Whitaker, would later play Jack Wade, CIA agent in both GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.
- This film also features the only deliberate nude scenes in a Bond film (not counting opening titles). (Though I do remember some random tits on the wall in Spy Who Loved Me. But those are magazine cutouts. This film has actual tits, in the flesh.)
- This is always fun. Here are some foreign language title translations for the film: (Denmark) Spies Die at Dawn, (Italy) Danger Zone (YES!!!!!!), (Spain & Portugal) 007: High Tension, (France) Death Is Not a Game / To Kill Is Not to Play, (Finland) 007 and the Danger Zone, (Sweden) Ice Cold Mission, (Poland) Facing Death, (Chile) His Name Is Danger), (West Germany) The Touch of Death / The Breeze of Death, (Israel) 007 in the Dangerous Zone, (Brazil) 007 Destined to Die, (Norway) In the Line of Fire.
- (Normally I’d skip this stuff, but for Bond, I think it’s interesting) Product placement for this film include: Aston Martin Lagonda, Audi AG, Carlsberg Beer, Harrods, Bollinger champagne, Cartier, Phillips Electronics, J&B Rare Scotch, and Rolex watches.
- The character of Pushkin was only introduced after Walter Gotell, who plays General Gogol, got sick and couldn’t be insured. So they created Pushkin and had Gotell cameo as Gogol, now a member of the Soviet foreign office.
- This is a great story: the producers were originally going to have a stunt man play the assassin in the opening sequence, but John Glen felt they needed an actual actor. So they offered the part to Carl Rigg, who at the time was out of work and at home, taking care of his baby while his wife was away on business. The second he got the call, he left the baby with a neighbor and left his wife a note saying he’d gone to be in a Bond movie, and immediately got on a plane to start filming the movie.
- To date, this was the last tim M’s office was relocated to another location (it being on the plane).
- Timothy Dalton performed the opening sequence stunt on the top of the jeep himself.
- This is Felix Leiter’s first appearance in a(n official) Bond film in 14 years (since Live and Let Die).
- This was the first Bond film to feature a different song over the closing credits (The Pretenders’ “If There Was a Man”).
- This is the last time Bond visits the opera until Quantum of Solace.
- Apparently this is also the last (to date) time a Bond girl has been blonde. Since then, they’ve all been either brunettes or redheads.
- John Barry cameos as the orchestra leader at the very end of the film.
- Michael G. Wilson also cameos at the opera, sitting near Saunders (just to the right of the lady in a white dress).