The Living Daylights (1987)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Living Daylights</strong> (1987)

(Second or third Viewing, On Blu Ray, November 2018) By the time Timothy Dalton took over the James Bond role from Roger Moore in The Living Daylights, the ground had shifted a bit underneath the Bond franchise. Suddenly, the womanizing wasn’t as appealing, and dozens of other movies were aiming for the same thrills as the Bond series. As a result, The Living Daylights attempts a light retooling of the character. There’s only one woman for Bond this time around and the film goes back to its spying roots in delivering an authentic late-period Cold-War thriller that has a ring of authenticity to it. Dalton has his best movie here—still relatively charming compared to his much-darker follow-up License to Kill, but hard-edged enough to ensure that we wouldn’t mistake it for another Moore entry. I remembered only a few things from a previous viewing sometime in the early 1990s, but one of them is the incredibly cool Walther WA 2000 sniper rifle used early in the film. The other is Maryam d’Abo as one of the best Bond Girls up to that point, and a relative rarity in the pantheon as a Bond Girl portrayed as a complex skilled character (a cellist) but not an enemy agent equally able to match Bond’s fighting skills. The film’s opening half is a bit better than its concluding act, which suffers from some contemporary weirdness in heading to Afghanistan and fighting alongside the anti-Soviet pre-Taliban Mujahideen. (To be fair, Rambo III ended up in the same place for the same reasons at about the same time.) Still, The Living Daylights remains a step up for the series, and it’s still remarkably good watching even today as we’ve grown accustomed to a much dourer Bond during the Craig years. Alas, Dalton would squander much of his accumulated goodwill in the follow-up film…

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