007 in 23: Assignment #015- The Living Daylights

ASSIGNMENT #015: The Living Daylights (1987)

With Roger Moore leaving the series coming to terms that he is too old to play the title character, someone who was once offered the role when casting for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came in. Timothy Dalton was deemed too young for the role at the time (the age range for portraying Bond is from late 30’s to early 40’s), but with The Living Daylights and finally in his early 40’s, it was time for him to take on the role. Onto The Living Daylights…

After seeing Bond portrayed by Dalton for the first time in a teaser involving a fellow agent killed during a routine exercise, Bond is in helping aid in the defection of KGB General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) in Czechoslovakia at a concert hall. Whilst there, Bond discovers that a KGB sniper, ready to terminate Koskov, is a cellist in the orchestra. This leads Bond to find the sniper and to kill her under orders from MI6, but refuses and merely injures her for being shoddy with a sniper. Luckily, Bond helps Koskov escape via pipeline (Mario would be proud) across the border into Austria in Q Branch where we meet the new Moneypenny (performed by the lovely Caroline Bliss), then to MI6 Headquarters in Britain. M tells Bond after the defection briefing that an old policy known as Smert Spionam aka Death to Spies (Yes, SMERCH from the classic From Russia with Love has returned) is back in effect thanks to General Puskin (John Rhys-Davies) becoming the new head of the KGB. After Bond and M leave the MI6 headquarters, a man named Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) infiltrates to take back Koskov to a safe house in Tangier, while destroying the headquarters. Bond heads to Tangier to locate Pushkin and kill him to prevent tensions between the West and the Soviet Union from rising again and discovers that the assassin had left a note with ‘Smert Spionam’ on it at the scene. Bond returns to Czechoslovakia to the cellist named Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) to find that the defection has been staged and that Milovy is Koskov’s girlfriend and convinces her that he is Koskov’s friend to accompany her to reunite with her again, resulting in the two staring to develop chemistry. They, of course, engage (there’s that word again) in a car chase with the return of the gadget-filled Aston Martin wrecking everything up, escaping via sleding on a cello case, stay with one another, and go to a theme park in Vienna where they finally kiss. Bond meets with his MI6 ally, Saunders (Thomas Wheatley), from before in a meeting where he informs Bond that Puskin has been making deals with arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Saunders leaves only to be killed by a glass door smashing by Necros, leaving a balloon once again saying ‘Smert Spionam’.

Bond and Milovy head to Tangier to face off against Pushkin as Pushkin is not aware of ‘Smert Spionam’ and reveals that Koskov has been embezzling from government funds. Bond decides to fake an assassination of Pushkin, which allows Koskov and Whitaker to forward their plans. Bond returns to Milovy where she has contacted Koskov who tells her Bond is a KGB agent and drugs him, only for Necros and Koskov to betray her, capturing them both after flying to Afghanistan to imprison them on a Soviet air base.  Bond beats the living daylights (sorry) out of the jail and save a fellow prisoner who ends up being Kamran Shah (Art Malik), a leader of the Mujahideen, the Afghan resistence. They discover that Koskov has been using the Soviet funds to distribute opium for himself while giving the rest of the profits to the Soviets to buy arms. With help of the Mujahideen, they infiltrate the Soviet air base for Bond to destroy the cargo plane with opium, but is barricaded leading Bond to fly the plane out himself to blow it to kingdom come with Milovy entering the plane by Jeep in the cargo bay. Necros sneaks on to the plane with Bond giving him the boot of the plane, leading to him to drop the bomb out of the plane to help Shah and his men win over the Soviets. Bond heads to Tangier, kills Whitaker, and sends Koskov to prison. The film ends on a happy note, with Kara Milovy becoming a popular cellist, with Bond waiting in her dressing room with two shaken, not stirred martinis ready for that classic art form known as lovemaking.

Finally, I can say I love another James Bond film. Not since The Spy Who Loved Me or For Your Eyes Only did I have a truly great time from beginning to end. For Your Eyes Only was a great 80’s Bond flick, but this film captured the essence of a 80’s Bond should be even more. Gritty and a bit dark at times, but with the action and characters that made Bond classic. Timothy Dalton is a great addition to the role of Bond, even if he seems to have the same intense face at time, but delivers with a charismatic performance oozing with some Connery-esque suave. Maryam d’Abo as Kara can be a bit grating to some, but for me, I really enjoyed her performance in this film and she is damn gorgeous, but I can see the problems. Art Malik even in his small brief scenes of dialogue is fantastic and proves to be a great ally to Bond in his achievements. The action is done really well giving one of the best chases since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Bond proving that Q, still played by the always brilliant Desmond Llewelyn, sure knows his gadgets. The climax at the end is reminiscent of Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice while providing the same thrills of The Spy Who Loved Me and Andreas Wisniewski as Nercros is a menacing presence with the silence of  Oddjob, but the intimidation and looks of Red Grant. The only true complaint about the film would be the confusion of who the exact villain is, not to say that the villains were wasted. Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker are great in the villainious roles, but who exactly was the main baddie unless I’m just idiot who can’t see that both of them are. Also, a very quick mention of John Rhys-Davies, being excellent as always. This man can appear in the biggest pile of horse dung quality films and he will still be my favorite part of it.

The theme song by a-ha is also quite good and enjoyable. I enjoy the new wave vibe to it, giving a hint at what the score for this feature will be like. Providing electronic sounds and spectacular vocals by Morten Harket, it’s a wonder on how the hell this band failed in America after ‘Take on Me’ because a-ha is an amazing group. Go check out more of their stuff right now and you won’t be disappointed. The Living Daylights is a fantastic Bond film in everyway providing the energy of The Spy Who Loved Me, the action of Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, and the tone and style of   On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It is a near-perfect film. Scope it out if you haven’t and give it a rewatch if you have seen it, it’s amazing.

Assignment Status: 4.75 out of 5

Next mission, Timothy Dalton delivers his final Bond performance (not even Lazenby got a second chance) to only get let go from MI6 to go rouge and hunt a drug lord who murder Bond’s old pal Felix Leiter’s wife. Time to head into the lowest grossing Bond feature that almost seemed like the final nail in the coffin of the Bond series.

Next Mission: Licence to Kill

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