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The Living Daylights

September 5, 2010

The Living Daylights (1987)
Director: John Glen
Actors: Timothy Dalton, Miryam D’Abo, Jeroen Krabbé

Synopsis: James Bond (Timothy Dalton) investigates after the defection of a KGB agent (Jeroen Krabbé) goes wrong….

ReviewThe Living Daylights – Timothy Dalton’s first stab at playing James Bond – is a patchy affair, but with the benefit of hindsight, it makes for a culturally noteworthy appendage to the evolution of the Bond franchise. By casting Dalton as Bond, the producers were making a definitive statement that the Roger Moore era of pantomime humour and big-budget spectacle was staid and in need of a make-over, and on that specific remit, Dalton’s performance justifies the change. He convinces as a ruthless special agent, with just enough hint of the sardonic humour and womanising tendencies that have made Bond such an iconic character. Unfortunately, the producers haven’t quite managed to transfer this new-found sobriety to the conception of its villains. While on paper the idea of renegade arms dealers and warring Politburo leaders (with fake defections and assassination plots) sounds inherently dramatic, in actuality, it gets rather tame, superficial treatment – not that different from the problems that marred the end of the Moore era. Jeroen Krabbé and Joe Don Baker play their villainous parts far too archly to reflect credibly on their insidious co-dependent relationship, and the subplot about opium-for-arms in Afghanistan is sketched in far too briskly, although it does have a retrospective interest beyond its then Cold War dimensions, as we now know the problematic cost of arming and supporting the insurgent militia to fight the Soviet army. So, even if The Living Daylights is slightly stilted dramatically, it has a prescient relevance as commentary on an era when the first transitions from a Cold War political paradigm to a more complicated age of geopolitical terrorism was starting to take shape. (December 2006)

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