Bond-ed for Life ~ The Living Daylights

The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.

The Facts:

Synopsis: James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war. Bond crosses all seven continents in order to stop the evil Whitaker and General Koskov.

Stars: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, John Rhys-Davies

Director: John Glen

Rated: PG

Running Length: 130 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  In 1985, A View to a Kill marked Roger Moore’s seventh and final film as superspy James Bond so it was up to the longtime Bond producers to once again look for another actor to take on the legendary role.  Now, by this time the Bond character was part of the cultural landscape with most everyone being able to identify who James Bond was.  For an actor, that level of notoriety can be a difficult thing to take on and stepping into a role played by three men on screen already had its pros and cons.

It came down to two actors…both of whom had been on the shortlist of Bond replacements for several years.  For a time it looked like future Bond Pierce Brosnan would be making his debut in the role…until a last-minute option on his television series Remington Steele was picked up.  It was then that the role was given to Dalton, the Wales born classically trained actor who would make his debut with The Living Daylights.

The last Bond film with a title taken from the works of Ian Fleming, The Living Daylights is a decent debut for Dalton working with a script that was originally tailored to Brosnan.  Dalton’s Bond rights some wrongs brought on by Moore by giving 007 the edge that had been missing for most of Moore’s tenure in the role.  There’s something smart about Dalton’s approach to the role but it also keeps him a bit removed from the admittedly slight material that makes up this thrust of this outing.

Going back to the same story well involving Bond racing to stop another world war from breaking out, The Living Daylights features one of the more benign villains in Krabbe and Baker as men from two different countries uniting for world domination.  Most of their material is so jokey and played as farce that it’s hard to take either men as seriously as Dalton so desperately wants to.  Sometimes you can almost hear Dalton’s eyes rolling as Krabbe graspingly mugs for the camera.

Learning nothing from the bland Bond girl of Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill, producers cast another blonde beauty with virtually nothing to bring to the table.  D’Abo has an interestingly European look but struggles quite a bit with her accent and limited acting skills.  The chemistry between Dalton and D’Abo is next to nonexistent so it’s just a function of the script that they end up twisted in the sheets together.

With a new Bond I wished that the producers has also brought in a new director as Glen’s fourth opportunity to direct doesn’t bring anything new to the series.   Had a different director been hired I’m wondering if that would have allowed the franchise to make some needed steps forward rather than continue to coast along at the speed limit.

Pop group a-ha provides a nice title track but Maurice Binder’s credits sequence seems a little underdeveloped…it’s another case of someone coasting along on the strength of their previous work.  Pushing the envelope was something that was needed here and Binder’s effort falls flat.

The Living Daylights is a respectable first entry for our new 007 that does hint at the promise of things to come.  Dalton seems eager to please and up for the challenges of the role – based on that obvious enthusiasm I’m sure the film will please Bond fans that were waiting for something different than what Moore had been offering up.

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