- Movie Rating -

The Living Daylights (1987)

| July 31, 1987

Okay, so allow me to review.  Just this month I have experienced wretched sequels to JawsSuperman and Revenge of the Nerds; Meanwhile that obnoxious sequel to Beverly Hills Cop continues inexplicably to make money  Now I have arrived at the new James Bond film which I can only call ragingly mediocre.  Based on the way things have been going I’ll call that progress.

Mediocre is not how I want to rate a James Bond film, and I am sure not how Timothy Dalton wants to start out his tenure as 007.  He arrives at the role at a very difficult point.  Bond has always been a bit of a flywheel fantasy, toppling megalomaniacal bad guys and then rewarding himself by bedding down with some of the most gorgeous women in the world.  It isn’t a good fit for the 80s.  The politics of the time are far more complicated and the rise of the AIDS epidemic gives us pause whenever Bond engages in casual sex.

You can feel that all through The Living Daylights, a movie in which the producers are very aware of the current climate.  Not enough to comment on it (there’s the box office to consider) but the restraints on the character are very present.  Dalton enters the role after a long-protracted tenure by Roger Moore and while it is not really fair to compare him to either Moore or Connery, it would seem to be inevitable. 

Dalton is a good actor, but what is missing is the wistfulness of the character, the humor, the one-liners.  They are punctuation on his impossible near-death experiences.  Without them, something seems to be missing.  I think Dalton is really trying to pull from the spirit of Ian Fleming’s books.  If you really study them you can see that his performance is the closest to the character as written.  That’s fine but it makes for a very dry movie.

No one walking out of The Living Daylights would be able to thoroughly explain to you what this movie is about because the plots are more or less superfluous.  Every idea seems to have been exhausted by this point, so that only way that the producers can keep up is by writing from the headlines.

Bond (Dalton) is assigned to help a Russian general who wishes to defect and in so doing comes across not only the war in Afghanistan, but also a crooked arms dealer, and a multi-billion dollar plan to smuggle vast amounts of opium.  To get there you have the usual chain of events involving shoot-outs and chases and pulse-pounding music that backs up some exciting stunts.  For this one, may favorite has Dalton and his leading lady, a Russian Cellist played by Maryam d’Abo sliding down a snowy mountain on her cello case.  That was a lot of fun, but I wish I thought that Dalton might have at least smiled at how absurd it all was.

Everything seems so serious here.  Bond, the leading lady, the villain, the plot.  Maybe the thinking was that after the over-the-top goofiness of the Roger Moore films (remember when he went to space?) that things needed to be brought back down to Earth, back down to a more realistic level.  Well, that’s fine but I think this film might be a little too grounded.  I might have preferred some levity, and a James Bond that has a fun personality to go along with his license to kill.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action