Note: This post is part of the Blog, James Blog-a-thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.
I had hoped to write an all-Timothy Dalton post for the James Blog-a-thon, but it turns out there's nothing nice I can say about License to Kill, other than its ultra-smooth title cut from Gladys Knight. So all-Timothy Dalton turned in to all-Living Daylights, which is fine by me. I've never hesitated to declare The Living Daylights as one of my favorite Bond movies (same for A View to a Kill), despite having a decidedly lower pedigree than its peers. There's not a single memorable villain in the movie, the plot seems like a lost A-Team episode, and the most critical piece of gadgetry James uses is an exploding key chain. And yet, it's still fun as hell.
What The Living Daylights has going for it is strong source material, a short story by Ian Fleming that was the last of the author's books to be adapted into a big-screen 007 before Casino Royale. Fleming's short story The Living Daylights presents the concept of Bond's conflict of killing a beautiful woman sniper, who he earlier had eyes for. The movie recreates this short story nearly line for line in the opening sequence, even ending with the same words, "I must have scared the living daylights out of her." The short story ends there, and from that scene the movie goes on to a mostly uninteresting series of double-crosses about the KGB and an arms dealer portrayed by Joe Don Baker.
The plot never really comes to life after that opening scene, especially since the worst that can happen is the KGB getting to buy some weapons from Joe Don Baker. But the opening sniper sequence gives us the one element that will hold everything together: the chemistry between Bond and Kara (Maryam d'Abo). Unlike many of the perfunctory 007 relationships, these two seem to really share something, and dammit if they don't look good together. Kara is a good complement to Bond, as we see early on she's a capable sniper and later proves to be a nearly-competent pilot.
The pair figure in to the movie's two best moments: a flawless Aston Martin gadget escape turned cello sled ride, and a still amazing airborn fight on a barely-tethered opium cargo. The latter leads to the movie's best line ("he got the boot!"), and one of the franchise's best-executed stunts, with Bond and Kara escaping the doomed cargo plane in a Jeep on some sort of parachute sled. They make it look easy, but I've always loved Dalton's fearless look when he pulls the parachute and jumps back in the Jeep ("I know a great restaurant in Karachi!").
These charms may not be appear to be in the caliber of Bond's more popular fare, but there's something about the overall film that's kept me coming back. It may be due to the fact that it was made in 1987, and as such its DNA contains elements of 80s action movies (random happenings in Afghanistan, exploding cargo planes, Joe Don Baker, etc.). It's also hard to deny that this is the last of the old school 007 movies -- the last of Fleming's original material, and also the last one to be scored by John Barry. The score and accompanying songs are excellent, with Barry adding some late-80s sensibilities to the traditional 007 score, and a-Ha turning in a surprisingly memorable title song (Barry himself remixed the song for the movie, adding in the snappy strings intro).
And then there's Dalton. While he may never rise above the bottom of the Bond depth chart among fans, he has nothing to be ashamed of in The Living Daylights. Dalton's Bond is closer to Sean Connery than Roger Moore, with little of the former's sarcasm. He plays Bond pretty straight, but always appears capable of doing his part in keeping the Majesty's Crown safe. License to Kill sunk the franchise to unseen depths, and Dalton's legacy was taken down with it, but The Living Daylights has aged well.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Filed Under Blog-a-thon