June 17, 2011

#5byBond: The Living Daylights

This week's #5byBond film is The Living Daylights, the fifteenth in the Bond franchise. It's the first for Timothy Dalton as the iconic spy, and the last for Walter Godell, who played KGB General Gogol in this and previous outings. It's also the first of two appearances for Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny.

Dalton's selection was a matter of some controversy, as Cubby Broccoli, EON producer, originally wanted Pierce Brosnan to take over the Bond role. Brosnan's connection to NBC's Remington Steele sank his Bond prospects. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and patience would bear fruit for Brosnan as he replaced Dalton two films later.

My notes:

  • the opening sequence is non-ridiculous action, a good start for Dalton. No gadgets, no goofy double-entendres.
  • Q operates in the field, once again. Still played by Desmond Llewelyn.
  • a new actress, Caroline Bliss, plays the familiar Moneypenny, and she's a looker. Utterly unconvincing, though. She'll play this role only once more.
  • ooooh, the "ghetto blaster," a grenade-launching boom box, is a bad gag.
  • Koskov, the defector, is a buffoon. I'm not sure how that makes for a good story line. How does a buffoon rise to a level worthy of defection?
  • sawing the cop car from its chassis with a laser is a dumb gag. It's an element out of the later Roger Moore Bonds.
  • ugh, more skliing! This time, on a cello case. I thought we were rid of this with Moore's departure!
  • beautiful location shots in this film, par for Bond films. Morocco, Afghanistan, Vienna. Very nice.
  • Joe Don Baker as an arms dealer. Hmm. I guess he makes a good jovial bad guy.
  • Felix Leiter, CIA: a man in a Member's Only jacket. Nicely feathered hair, though. A kinder, gentler Felix. A man of the eighties. I liked Jack Lord (Dr. No) better, and most of all Leiters, Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Bond 23).
  • lots of silly action during the Russian airfield raid.
  • and Bond saves the day.

All-in-all, this wasn't a bad film as Bond films go. Timothy Dalton played an understated Bond, a nice change from the tongue-in-cheek role that Moore had morphed it into. And there was some amusingly period-correct action that aligned Bond with the mujahideen, the Afghan resistance fighters battling Soviet invaders. It was 1987, after all. Not sure if we could see anyone named Osama among the happy freedom fighters depicted here.

I'm a fan of more sedate spy flicks, a la The Quiet American and The Good Shephard, so Dalton's laid-back Bond isn't unwelcome. That said, I think Bond films, and the guys who play the role, should be more intense. It comes with the territory. So we'll see how Dalton does in the next film, his second and last as James Bond.

Up next: License to Kill, the sixteenth Bond flick.