Bonding with Bond, Day 17: The Living Daylights

One intrepid RT editor is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

by | November 6, 2008 | Comments

Today we come to the fourth actor to play 007, Timothy Dalton. I found his portrayal to be very different from those of his predecessors, and I liked him in the role.

The Living Daylights (1987) 73%


With the Roger Moore era now at a close, I was eager to see what Timothy Dalton would do with 007. I believe my childhood perception of James Bond’s image came from Dalton’s portrayal of Bond, even though I never watched either of his films; The Living Daylights is the first Bond movie I personally recall opening in theaters, and his look was immediately recognizable to me. Plus, after Moore’s elderly antics in A View to a Kill, I was ready for a fresh face.

I knew, of course, that Dalton was the next Bond, so his first appearance on screen wasn’t the big dramatic reveal it could have been. What did surprise me was that, despite my expectations, the opening scenes of The Living Daylights were pretty standard fare. Another impressive skydiving sequence begins the festivities, and then it jumps right into the action. After the mysterious killer Bond is pursuing drives an exploding jeep off a ramp and into the ocean, we find Bond climbing aboard a yacht, where a scantily clad woman on a cell phone is telling someone how she wishes for a “real man.”

But as the movie went on, I began to see the stark difference between Dalton and Moore. In fact Dalton was very different from Connery, too. Moore was obviously a more jolly Bond, if smug, dropping one liners left and right and prancing about more so than strutting; Connery was a smooth-talker, arrogant and commanding, but honestly kind of a jerk. Dalton, however, is stoic, with an ideal face for scowling, and he seems less flippant, less coy. With Dalton’s Bond, what you see is what you get, and I liked that. Whatever it may imply about my own personality, I felt that, of all the Bonds so far, Dalton is the one I’d probably get along with the best. Because, you know, I regularly pal around with British spies.


With the end of the Moore Era also came the end of Lois Maxwell as Ms. Moneypenny, so I want to say something about her. I really liked her as Moneypenny. Throughout the series, I believed that her interactions with 007, as brief and sporadic as they were, reflected a unique chemistry that was seldom found in the Bond girls he went to bed with. In fact, very early on I determined that Moneypenny would have made the perfect wife for Bond, if he ever settled down. Of course, Tracy Di Vicenzo changed all that, and I actually sympathized with the melancholy Moneypenny at their wedding. But Lois Maxwell has been replaced by Caroline Bliss, and she doesn’t quite achieve the same rapport with Bond. I shall reserve final judgment on her until I see more of her.

While Dalton himself was a more serious, heart-on-his-sleeve 007, The Living Daylights wasn’t without its measure of camp. The chase sequence in his new Aston Martin (the most beautiful Bond car since his DB5, in my opinion) includes an enemy car getting sliced in half by a laser, as well as Bond dragging a cabin across a frozen lake before gunning it and bursting through its doors. The end of that scene, to top it off, has Bond and his female companion, Maryam D’Abo’s Kara Milovy, escaping down a snowy slope on a cello case. But there are only a few such scenes, and Dalton never winks at the audience, so to speak, like Moore did; his demeanor seems to say, “I know this looks ridiculous, but I have a mission to complete!”


Overall, I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. Perhaps some of you were right in guessing that after 7 Moore films, I’d find Dalton to be refreshingly somber. But aside from his personality, I also felt that Dalton’s Bond acted more like a spy here, squeezing information out of Kara Milovy and utilizing misdirection as effectively as his exploding key fob. You could also sense palpable frustration and anger at times, which made Bond a bit less godlike and helped ground the film. Overall, I would say I’d rank this in the upper tier of Bond films so far, and I’m looking forward to Licence to Kill.

Favorite Line: “Stuff my orders!… Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.” — Bond says this to his partner when he’s questioned about deliberately missing a sniper shot at Kara Milovy. This happens near the beginning of the movie, and it was the first indication to me that Dalton would be a different kind of Bond.

Favorite scene: Towards the end, as Bond is attempting to steer a rogue plane down a runway, Kara comes running up from behind and hugs him, grasping his head and muffling his face. Bond is visibly annoyed and you can hear him say “Kara!” in a tone that implies “Get the hell off of me! Can’t you see I’m trying to fly a plane here?”

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