James Bond rewatch: ‘The Living Daylights’

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001. The story

After terrorising Gibraltar on a training exercise that ends up as a date, James Bond (Timothy Dalton) pursues KGB turncoat Georgi Koskov, renegade US arms dealer Brad Whittaker and a murderous Pretenders-loving milkman across the world’s scariest funfair, a frozen Slovakian lake and through the deserts of Afghanistan (buddying up with, er, the mujahideen), armed only with a cello and a set of car keys.

After blowing up lots of heroin and playing a lethal game of toy soldiers, Bond misses an orchestral recital by latest flame Kara Milvoy but gets a private performance in the dressing room afterwards.

002. The villains

Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) fluctuates between louche playboy and simpering idiot without once displaying any traces of actual villainy, while Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) is basically a trainspotter with a fascination for firearms rather than a love of locomotives.

Thankfully, Andreas Wisniewski’s Necros – the scariest character to wield a pint of semi-skimmed since Hugh Dennis’s Mr Strange first muttered, ‘Lovely… milky milky’ – is a convincingly icy assassin.

003. The girls

A monogamous Bond remains mostly faithful to Kara (Maryam d’Abo), with whom he caddishly cracks on whilst pretending to be a pal of her boyfriend.

004. Best moments

In a film packed with great action scenes – the car chase that makes full use of the Aston Martin DB5’s ‘optional extras’, Necros’s attack on the MI6 safehouse, Bond parachuting out of a plane in a jeep – and instances of atypical grimness – 007’s aborted execution of a Soviet general, MI6 agent Saunders (Thomas Wheatley) being decapitated by a sliding door – the finest sequence sees Bond and Kara tobogganing through customs into Austria on a cello case. ‘We’ve nothing to declare…’ ‘Except a cello!’

005. Trivia

» Pierce Brosnan was set to star as 007 in The Living Daylights, but was ultimately forced to withdraw when the cancellation of his TV series Remington Steele was revoked. Sam Neill, Mel Gibson and GoldenEye villain Sean Bean were also considered for the role at the time.

» Geoffrey Keen makes his sixth and final appearance as Frederick Gray, Minister of Defence.

» The character of General Pushkin was intended to be General Gogol, a recurring character since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, but actor Walter Gotell was too ill to be insured for the shoot.

» Joe Don Baker twice returned to the Bond series during the ’90s as CIA agent Jack Wade.

» A parody of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was originally planned to conclude the movie, similar to For Your Eyes Only‘s scene featuring Margaret Thatcher.

» In the final Bond film to feature one of his musical scores, John Barry cameos as an orchestra conductor.

006. Best quotes

» Q demonstrates a rocket-launcher disguised a boom-box: ‘It’s called a ghetto-blaster!’

» ‘Stuff my orders!’ Bond snaps to Saunders. ‘Tell M if you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.’

» ‘We have an old saying too, Georgi – and you’re full of it.’

» ‘Why didn’t you learn the violin?’

» Brad Whitaker is crushed by a statue of the Duke of Wellington. ‘He met his Waterloo,’ remarks Bond.

007. The verdict

Dalton’s portrayal of Bond has been maligned in the past for being earnest, dour, violent and too willing to ignore the orders of M and allow his personal feelings to dictate his actions – pretty much the exact template upon which Daniel Craig’s 007 was based on to critical acclaim two decades later. While The Living Daylights is no Casino Royale, it’s certainly a classier affair than most of the other Bond movies of the 1980s.

Admittedly, it never fulfils the promise of its opening reel – the part based on Ian Fleming’s original short story – but it’s nowhere near as tedious as its reputation suggests. Nor is its star; how can anyone able to turn the phrase ‘Salt corrosion’ into a quip be dismissed as humourless?

What do you think of The Living Daylights? Let us know below…