Bond is Back!: The Living Daylights
Directed by: John Glen
Having just finished A View To A Kill (1985), instead of going backwards, I decided to move forward with the 007 films of the 80's. So next in line was this one, where it was time for another shift in the James Bond universe. The Living Daylights was released 2 years after the previous installment, which saw Roger Moore retiring the character, with Timothy Dalton taking over the role for the first time with this film.
I don't know, I kind of feel like Dalton has gotten a bad rap for his turn as James Bond. In any conversation I've ever had with someone in talking about James Bond films, or even in reviews, articles and news, he's rarely ever brought up as one of the best or favorite Bond's. So with that, I went in with some trepidation. I was also aware that director John Glen was returning, and since I wasn't impressed at all with his work on A View To A Kill, I was a bit worried going in.
I'm happy to report that with Dalton on board, The Living Daylights not only exceeded my expectations, but it was flat out awesome. While it took a good 30 minutes to really pull me into the story, which always seems to be the case with most 007 films for me, it was a radically fleshed out and excellent espionage thriller. When you take into consideration that the previous Bond film was quite silly and very cheesy, this film takes a drastic 180 degree turn into serious, hard-edged thriller territory, which to my surprise, was a very welcome change indeed. There are no winks at the camera, and gone are the silliness to everything, replaced by a strict take on the character, one who isn't trying to bed every female, and one who doesn't reply with sarcasm, or even smiles. Which, truthfully, was quite refreshing. Sure that type of character worked well for Roger Moore, but it had grown tiresome by this point, and the franchise was ready for a change. And that change would come by way of Timothy Dalton. Who, as I would learn, had been approached multiple times to play Bond previously, but turned them down because he didn't think he was the right age at the time.
I think one of the biggest surprises for me out of all of this was director John Glen. Like I mentioned earlier, and also in my review for A View To A Kill, I just didn't like what he was doing aesthetically. It all came off as very tame and completely uninteresting. So when I learned he was returning again for this Bond film, I was reluctant to dive in wholeheartedly. But a funny thing happened. The guy surprised me in a very big way, and completely redeemed himself in my eyes. It seems the detour into more serious fare was a good match for him because he completely revitalizes the look he gave his previous Bond films with a much more polished and refined approach. It doesn't really add more style per say, but it does look cleaner and neater overall, which adds a lot to the legitimacy of the new direction they're intending to take the franchise. On a visual level, it adds so much more to the experience overall. John Glen won me over this time around and it's because of this that I am looking forward to, more than ever, License To Kill, his last directing job on a Bond film.
Timothy Dalton just owns the role. Though I never put much stock into Dalton in the role since I knew he only played him twice (the 2nd least amount of all the actors who have taken the role), and he's rarely ever mentioned as a favorite, I was kinda taken aback at how great he was as 007. While nostalgia will prevail and force me to pick Roger Moore as my favorite, after having seen this film, I'm more inclined to lean more towards Dalton because he's such a badass. I'm sure License to Kill will be the deciding factor for me once I see it.
Another highlight in the acting department was Maryam d'Abo as the love interest. She was so different than any I'd seen before. Instead of playing a tough secret agent, or a sexy killer, she played a cellist who is unwittingly used as a patsy in a murder plot, who is helped by 007 to catch her former boyfriend. It's all in the way she plays her, with so much charm and sensitive emotion. She was just perfect in the role and made a much more interesting and convincing love interest than we're used to seeing.
One of the things that made this so great for me was the fact that I've already been on somewhat of an 80's Thriller kick lately, if you haven't already noticed. This is a genre and an era I never really took the time to admire before, and as I make up for it now, I'm realizing I have really been missing out on some great films. What's even more surprising to me is that I was not expecting this film to fall into that category at all. Where I was expecting a big, loud and cheesy film, I was instead treated to a dark, violent, and serious James Bond film that grabbed me from the get-go and consistently left me impressed.
Great cast, great story, and great action sequences, all wrapped into a neatly packaged espionage thriller, making it the best Bond film I've seen so far.