RetroReview: The Living Daylights

As a Brit, James Bond is part of my cultural heritage, as a kid I can remember watching the old Connery and Moore movies over and over, they seemed to be on every bank holiday or Christmas. And I loved them, as a kid they’re just fantastic fun, the daft double entendres fly over your head and you’re more content with watching Bond save the world and face off against crazy villains like Odd Job, Jaws and Baron Samedi.

I think that’s why the Bond films endure, because close to three generations of people, mainly boys, have been exposed to them at a young age. They’re part of our childhood.

When I was at uni a friend said that she had never seen a Bond movie, this amazed me and I told her she had to remedy this fact. I have no idea if she did or not, but thinking about it now it may not have worked. I love the Moore era, but they are painfully naff at times, but that’s part of why I love them, and I first saw them when I wasn’t aware of naffness. But had I seen them as an adult, with no prior Bond experience would I still have liked it?

No, she’d have to pick a good one to start off with, a flick to ease you into the Bond and I think The Living Daylights is probably one of the best ones to do that.

Its the debut of Timothy Dalton as Bond, who brings a softer side to Bond. Unlike in previous entries Bond is shown to actually develop genuine feelings for the Bond Girl, cellist Kara (Maryam d’Abo). The plot is steeped in the Cold War as Bond aids a Russian General, Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) to defect to the west, only for him to be recaptured.

But it turns out Koskov’s defection was all a ruse and he’s actually the baddie, having got Kara to pretend to be a sniper to make his defection look real, not caring that Kara would probably die in the process. She doesn’t as Bond merely shoots the gun from her hand, realising that she has been forced into the attempt.

Koskov is trying to get the Brits to do his dirty work and bump off the new head of the KGB Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), who’s after him thus leaving Koskov free to continue his dodgy deals with the American arms trader Whitaker (Joe Don Baker).

Along the way Bond has to escape Russia with Kara, form an alliance with Pushkin and fake his death, fight Whitaker’s assassin, team up with the Afghan rebels and take care of Whitaker.

Its a thoroughly entertaining movie, with the plot being one of the better Bond efforts and while its very much of its time (like Rambo III it regards the Mujahideen as noble heroes and there’s Cold War tension in the air) but lots of the flick stands up.

Dalton’s Bond is much more sympathetic than Connery’s and not as comic as Moore’s. He’s more sensitive, but he’s no cissy. During the fights there’s an almost savage intensity at times and while Dalton’s not the biggest of blokes he looks like he can handle himself.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, Joe Don Baker’s Whitaker is a boorish, brash idiot who wants to be a military hero but is a two-bit gun runner and Koskov is a weasly little git.

And while there’s a bit of squealing and wimpishness about Kara its believable, she’s an innocent thrown into the world of espionage and intrigue so its only right that she’s out of her depth and scared, but over the course of the film she does toughen up a bit, and seems a bit more rounded than most of the other Bond girls.

Hard to believe that someone with Bond's penchant for innuendo doesn't make a "handling a big instrument" gag

But its still a Bond movie at heart and it has enough of the features of the genre to serve as a good introduction- good action sequences, suaveness and womanising (the end of the pre-credit sequence is daft, campy and cliched but in a way that’s the very essence of Bond), the traditional Bond imagery (Martinis, PPKs, tuxedos), goofy gadgets and some awful one-liners.

Its definitely one of my top 5 Bond Movies, but that’s a whole other blog.

I was amazed by how much of the film had stuck with me, although I could clearly remember two scenes with perfect picture:

1. Bond and Kara’s escape from Russia where they use her cello case as a sled to shoot down a hill and evade the enemies. A fantastic action sequence it amazed me as a youngster and looked like bloody good fun.

Cello case, the only way to travel

2. The part where Bond’s ally, a Russian woman working on the oil pipeline distracts her superviser by ramming his face between her ample bosom. I remember this scene because it was a key moment in my formative years and the first time I can remember a film turning me on.

So a big thank you to Julie T. Wallace. Annoyingly I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube, so here’s a picture instead.

At this point cue a very awkward preteen Chris during a family viewing of this film

Any thoughts? You know what to do. TTFN


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