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Living Daylights, The (1987)

Main image of Living Daylights, The (1987)
35mm, colour, 131 mins
DirectorJohn Glen
Production CompanyEon Productions
ProducersAlbert R. Broccoli
 Michael Wilson
ScreenplayRichard Maibaum
 Michael Wilson
PhotographyAlec Mills
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Timothy Dalton (James Bond); Maryam d'Abo (Kara Milovy); Jeroen Krabbé (General Georgi Koskov); Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker); John Rhys-Davies (General Leonid Pushkin); Art Malik (Kamran Shah)

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James Bond disobeys orders when he refuses to kill a sniper on the grounds that she is a woman cellist whom he finds attractive. Her involvement in a Soviet general's defection leads her and Bond to uncover a drugs-smuggling operation on a Russian airbase in Afghanistan.

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The first Bond film to star Timothy Dalton,The Living Daylights (d. John Glen, 1987) is a familiar mixture of popular elements from the series, given a certain political relevance through allusions to glasnost and the Soviet policy of 'détente'.

Dalton's Bond is a grittier and more subdued figure than Roger Moore's. He is leaner and more intense, dispensing with the regular one-liners and concentrating on a more gently ironic humour. He also seems more cynical, at one point indicating unhappiness with his employment. Although he still clearly enjoys the company of women, there is little misogyny and only two obvious sexual partners - he even seems unhappy at the idea of Kara (Maryam D'Abo) caring about another man. Dalton was criticised for his underplaying, but it comes across very effectively here. He is particularly impressive in the fight scenes, which are exciting and noticeably more brutal than usual. There are considerably fewer physical comedy scenes than in the previous two films and fewer gadgets, while the interplay with M (Robert Brown) and Moneypenny (now played by newcomer Caroline Bliss) is kept to a minimum.

The film, written when Dalton had yet to be cast, sticks to the usual formula of globetrotting locations and elaborate action. The plotting is intelligent and compelling, with the rival Soviet generals subplot of Octopussy (d. John Glen, 1983) expanded to include the decline of the Cold War, contemporary events in Afghanistan and the recently instituted policy of glasnost. The villainous Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) and Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) are amusingly characterised and, as Necros, Andreas Wisniewski makes the most impressively sinister henchman for some time. There is obvious simplifying as you would expect; as in the near-contemporary Rambo 3 (US, 1988), the Mujehadin are romanticised as anti-Communist cavalrymen, and their victory over high technology is particularly emphasised. But the careful construction of the story ensures that the film never collapses into a series of set-pieces.

John Glen's direction is adept and well-paced, allowing Dalton the space to develop his own version of the character. Although this was a new beginning for the series, it was also an ending for one of the major contributors to Bond's success. John Barry provides his last score for the series and it is a good farewell, with plenty of emphasis given to his lush, romantic arrangements and his immortal orchestration of Monty Norman's James Bond Theme.

Mike Sutton

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Binder, Maurice (1925-1991)
Dalton, Timothy (1946-)
Lamont, Peter (1929-)
Llewelyn, Desmond (1914-1999)
James Bond