Director: John Glen
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Robert Brown, Caroline Bliss, William Gotell, Desmond Llewelyn
Film matched beverage: The Lady Cello
Synopsis: Finally, a Bond film that relies on SMERSH, even if indirectly. Despite being the prominent villain organisation in the early Fleming novels, never once has it been mentioned prior to now in the film franchise. The advent of Dalton also brought a harder edged Bond, a more visceral take on the character much closer to Fleming’s source material. Why is it some of the best Bonds do the fewest films???
I have never been able to fully determine why i love this film so much. More than once have I watched all the James Bond films in order, and Living Daylights brings me to the end of the Roger Moore era, which often leaves me ambivalent. Aside from The Spy Who Loved me and For Your Eyes Only, I find myself often distracted by other things in the rest of the Moore run. Dalton’s first effort brings the spy game back into sharp focus. For this alone the whole film deserves to be commended. Some may argue that at some points the film is slow. For me, it takes much more time building intrigue and benefits from this effort.
Dalton really owns the role. From his first pre-credits sequence, he makes a mission statement. A darker Bond is by no means a less entertaining one. While there is still room for comedy, the role of an agent in Her Majesty;s Secret Service is treated with a much greater deal of respect. Balance is achieved, and any mis-steps in this film as a result are entirely forgivable. In short, you believe that Dalton is a secret agent, with all the responsibilities that entails.
The supporting cast almost perform just as well. Unfortunately, I must start with the exception. d’Abo is scripted as one of the weaker Bond girls to hit the screen. She is more the classic damsel in distress more than anything else. Her lungs do get a workout in this film, and I do wish we had heard less of them. d’Abo as an actress is not at fault here, she is very convincing in the character. It is just the character itself is annoying, and a convincingly annoying character is not often good company.
The other supporting cast members are brilliant however. I have long been a Rhys-Davies fan, and his General Pushkin is another great role to enjoy him in. Though not necessarily recognised for this role as he is in LOTR and Indiana Jones, it is another great franchise entry for this talented thespian. Krabbe is a suitable villain, and introduces a comic element that is well scripted to balance the darkness of the script. Then there is Joe Don Baker, so effective in what is really a one note role that he was invited back to play a recurring ally in the Brosnan era of Bond.
Dalton is the clear star however. His refined acting pedigree, which may have appeared at odds with the role of Bon, is just the change the character needed to keep it relevant just that little longer. Despite my opinion of Moore in the role, he is the Bond that the world needed at that time for entertainment. In a world where the threat of nuclear holocaust was all to relevant, a more comic take on the spy game was what was needed for the character to survive. Moore’s efforts as Bond ensured that Dalton could take the role at a later date, and take it down this more Flemming-esque path. Each new Bond plays this role, making a Bond that is relevant for the times in which the film is set. Dalton’s portrayal is often undervalued, due to the stark contrast of this change, just as Lazenby’s had been in his time. Yet these films are perhaps some of the Bonds that have aged the best.
The significance of the Blu-Ray upgrades becomes less prominent as the films progress, a reflection of the fact that quality of film photography and direction does improve over the course of decades. This is no reflection on whether the upgrade was necessary though. I still marvel at seeing the quality of these images, being personally familiar with lesser quality footage. Getting all the Bonds on Blu-Ray should really not be a hard choice for any true film connoisseur.
My enjoyment could be a reflection of relief that the era of Moore excess is over, but I doubt it. Dalton is a brilliant Bond,and worth another look with modern perceptions of what makes an entertaining film.
4 stars out of 5
The Lady Cello recipe
1 part rum
1/2 part lemon juice
1/2 part sugar
Shake all ingredients on ice and serve in a high ball glass. Serving suggestions; sugar rim your glass, and garnish with a cherry.