The Living Daylights (1987)

"I have no intention of leaving it at that, 007! I'm reporting to M that you deliberately missed! Your orders were to kill that sniper!""I have no intention of leaving it at that, 007! I'm reporting to M that you deliberately missed! Your orders were to kill that sniper!"

“I have no intention of leaving it at that, 007! I’m reporting to M that you deliberately missed! Your orders were to kill that sniper!”

With The Living Daylights, the fifteenth film released in the James Bond franchise marks a significant change in direction for the franchise. Gone is the silly, more comedic, lighter tone and route of the Roger Moore era of Bond (Moore played the fictional MI6 agent for 7 of the films) and ushered in is the new Bond. Call it a return to form, what made the early Bond films so endearing can be found here – James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is being taken infinitely more seriously in all aspects of the film. It’s no longer a majority of one-liners or cheaply written jokes for the audience’s expense, Dalton channels his inner Sean Connery while not being a straight up copy of Connery’s time as Bond. 

Dalton brings a certain physicality to the role that Moore lacked – of course Moore brought his own style to the character, but he never had fought the way Bond was supposed to fight leaving much to be desired when an action sequence would begin. The Living Daylights among having a new Bond, gives the franchise a fresh coat of paint, making it feel brand new while not getting stuck in a continuous loop of disappointment. 


Adding to the fresh coat of paint is a new actress in the role of Miss Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss) replacing the wonderful Lois Maxwell who originated the role. With the two new faces to the roles, the sexual tension is back between the two but it’s the subtlety of it all in the way it’s written that makes the tension desirable to watch play out. Previous films have the appearance of going through the motions – a plot point the writers had to power through but here its quick and sweet, nothing too overbearing or distracting from the main plot. 

The Living Daylights follows in the footsteps of the last few Moore era Bond films – focusing more of the story on a Cold War esque adventure. Its Bond vs the KGB and soviet spies instead of Bond vs SPECTRE and Blofeld – something that is been battled over in the legal system from a former contributor of author Ian Fleming. Bond aids a KGB general Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) in defecting only to discover that the defection was staged to evade capture from embezzlement of government funds. 

It wouldn’t be a Bond film if the safe and sound formulaic approach to producing these films weren’t present, but it is and it works for these films. Bond gets his orders from M (Robert Brown), gets a demonstration of all the new tech and the cool but deadly gadgets by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and then crosses paths with the villain and his girlfriend, partner, wife who is the “Bond girl” who also falls for Bond’s seduction tactics. This Bond girl is Koskov’s girlfriend named Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) who was also aiding in the staged defection by firing blanks from a sniper rifle. 

Even with the more grounded, serious tone, the dialogue is still at times comedic featuring a signatory one-liner. At one point Bond says he scared the living daylights out of the sniper who would be Milvoy. It’s understandably campy but even in the Connery led films, a line of that nature would slip out but would fit right into the seriousness of the plot. The difference of the comedy here vs any of the Roger Moore era Bond’s is the fact that Dalton looks cool in his delivery of his dialogue. 

As of late, the Bond franchise has seen a decrease in the importance of the villain and a rise in popularity of the second in command or the henchman. It’s a trend that started in Goldfinger with Oddjob and made its presence felt with majority of the Moore films from Jaws to May Day. Koskov’s henchmen Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) is a bigger threat to Bond than Koskov. Koskov is barely visible, only popping up in the exposition portion of the film (pre-opening credit) and toward the end, after the final action sequence. Everything in-between is a blur as far as his involvement in moving the story forward. 


You think returning screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson would get tired of putting in an action sequence involving a snowy mountain and some sort of skiing activity. But here we are again, another chase down the slopes of a mountain where Bond eludes a plethora of henchmen only to survive by getting away with ease. I think these scenes are added for the production value – showcasing new technology in filming the scenes while coming up with infinite ways for Bond to escape with his ingenuity. To be fair, this snow-capped chase sequenced featured the highly stylized Aston Martin, the signature Bond vehicle that has everything, but the kitchen sink attached to it for its defense in a getaway situation. 

If two words could describe the franchise, it’s consistency and chemistry. From screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson to the supporting cast that always understands the assignment to the directors, and the music composed by John Barry, Bond is always consistent that leads to great chemistry from all involved. Director John Glen is back for his fourth time helming a Bond film.

The Aston Martin is the only style The Living Daylights features besides the signature Bond tuxedo and the vodka martini (shaken, not stirred). The remainder is a more substance driven installment in the longest franchise to ever run. Bond is back to getting his hands dirty, returning to form. It’s less about the fashion and the jokes and more about the story and characters that Ian Fleming created in his novels. Of course, this film is based off the short story of the same name. It’s also the final film to use a title of an Ian Fleming story for the foreseeable future. Dalton has the charm, he’s handsome and he has the swagger that made the character so well beloved when Connery played the role. It’s a new more modern era of Bond that is a good step in the right direction for the future of the franchise.

Written By: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson

Directed By: John Glen

Music By: John Barry

Cinematography: Alec Mills

Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Art Malik, Jeroen Krabbé, Andreas Wisniewsk, Robert Brown, Caroline Bliss, Desmond Llewelyn

Release Date: June 29, 1987

Running Time: 2 Hours 10 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

My Score: 3.5 out of 5

Based On: The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

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