Another day another Bond...
Looking back, the 80's didn't look good for 007: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy... not a good start. And that was just after Moonraker. Thankfully, Roger Moore bowed out with a half decent effort, A View To A Kill, which boasted kickass villains in the form of a Christopher Walken/Grace Jones dynamic duo. It was a fine movie but it was, indeed, time for a change.
Pierce Brosnan not being available at the time, Timothy Dalton steps in as the new Bond and would bring with him a somewhat more serious, harder-edged feel to the character and his new adventures. Well... compared to Roger Moore's, that is.
The new Bond reinvention began with The Living Daylights, arguably THE most legitimately 80's of the 007 movies. With its irresistible synth-led score and its cool A-ha theme tune, it's almost shocking this Bond doesn't have a mullet and legwarmers! What Dalton lacks in natural pun deliveries he makes up for in making Bond feel more like a person rather than a 2D cartoon character. The plot this time feels in parts Hitchcockian and in other parts like a Tintin adventure with an intricate story contrasted by OTT action sequences. One of the latter involves 007 and Maryam D'Abo's Bond girl Kara Milovy sliding down a snowy mountain on a cello case, just to give you an idea.
Oh and the movie introduces the notion of EXPLODING MILK.
The Living Daylights does well in keeping a serious tone throughout while never forgetting to include the odd goofy moment or wink to the audience. What we have is the most balanced Bond film since, arguably, The Man With The Golden Gun. Fun, involving, clever, with a head-banging soundtrack, this first Dalton outing is one of the most underrated Bond films you'll see. The supporting cast includes Jeroen Krabbé and Joe Don Baker as our main villains, with Andreas Wisniewski doing the job as the inevitable towering henchman. All very good.
One could fault D'Abo's Bond girl for not being strong enough of a character and often being left to either drive cars or pilot planes very badly, even occasionally standing around while Bond beats fellas up but I suppose Famke Janssen will more than make up for that in Goldeneye. Yes the film has its longueurs, like all Bond films really, and one would have liked a climax not limited to a plane but those are all nitpicks. The stunts alone make The Living Daylights a must-see, with impressive fight scenes, crazy sky-based sequences and effects that still look pretty seamless to this day.
Overall, this Bond outing is a unique, well-made atmospheric ride with a strong Bond and a strong plot. It feels closer to the classic Ian Fleming-inspired movies (The Living Daylights is based on one of his short stories) and leaves you wanting more... in a good way.
Well worth a look.