The Living Daylights (1987)


(director: John Glen; screenwriters: Richard Maibaum/Michael G. Wilson/based on a novel by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Alec Mills; editors: John Grover/Peter Davies; music: John Barry; cast: Timothy Dalton James Bond, Maryam D’Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbé (General Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker), John Rhys-Davies (General Leonid Pushkin), Art Malik (Kamran Shah), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Robert Brown (M), Andreas Wisniewski (Necros), Thomas Wheatley (Saunders), Geoffrey Keen (Minister of Defence), Walter Gotell (General Anatol Gogol), Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny), John Terry (Felix Leiter), John Bowe (Colonel Feyador); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Albert R. Broccoli/Michael G. Wilson; United Artists; 1987-UK)
“It was somehow more entertaining than how it sounds.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the 15th entry in the Bond series and with the fourth Bond in place, following the languid George Lazenby and the droll Roger Moore’s turn. Timothy Dalton, the 40-year-old former stage actor, in his debut playing 007 does the Bond image justice by bringing more emotional credibility to the role with his sensitive and less rakish persona than the other replacements for Connery. The familiar Bond writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson supply the usual mix of villainy and heroics in their lighthearted martinis ”shaken, not stirred” screenplay. Director John Glen (“Octopussy”/”A View to a Kill”/”For Your Eyes Only”) keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace, as the globe trotting story moves from the Rock of Gibraltar to Czechoslovakia to Austria to Tangiers and finally to Afghanistan as Bond tracks down the usual spies, drug and diamond smugglers, arms dealers and psychopathic killers. Though far from the best plot in the series and the villains are merely greedy slimeball dealers and not the usual supervillains, the abundant action sequences are well-staged, the acting is better than usual for the series and the exotic locations keep changing but never lose their scenic fascination.

When the training test for 00 section Brit agents turns ugly and 004 is murdered, Bond chases down the assassin and in a dramatic fashion eliminates him. After the credits roll by James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia as a senior KGB operative Georgi Koskov (Jereon Krabbe) is defecting and requested Bond’s assistance. Bond spots a beautiful Czech cellist, Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), aiming her rifle from her perch on the top floor of a building and instead of killing the sniper only gives her a flesh wound in the arm that prevents the assassination.

Koskov is ingenuously smuggled into Austria as he’s transported through the trans-Siberian natural gas pipeline and tells British intelligence that he defected because his superior, General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), started again Stalin’s evil operation: Smiert Spionem (Death to Spies). He further tells the Brits that he fears if Russia and the West each kill the other’s spies it will soon result in a nuclear war, and requests the Brits take out Pushkin for the good of the world. While Koskov is being debriefed in the Austrian country safe house, someone claiming to be a KGB agent kills the milk deliveryman and takes his uniform and then kidnaps Koskov from the safe house after setting off a number of explosives and killing an agent.

When M orders Bond to kill Pushkin, 007 defers and says he smells something fishy and tracks down the Czech cello player, Kara Milovy (Maryam D’Abo), in Bratislava, where he discovers that the bullets in the assassination attempt were fake. After telling her he’s a friend of Koskov’s, Bond helps her escape from the KGB to Austria by using her cello case as a sled. Bond soon learns that her boyfriend Koskov is also her sponsor (bought her in NYC a Stradivari cello worth $125,000). 007 even learns that the cello was bought by a corrupt American arms dealer posing as a pseudo-General, Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), who resides in Tangiers.

Bond figures it out that Koskov’s defection was a ploy to get the Brits to kill his troublesome boss Pushkin, as he has caught on that the unprincipled Koskov is double-dealing his country by making unauthorized purchases of weapons from Whitaker for his own personal profit. With that, Bond makes a deal with Pushkin to expose the traitorous and untrustworthy Koskov. The action will next unfold in the deserts of Afghanistan where Bond allies himself with the Afghan resistance fighters. He gets into a ‘fight to the death’ with Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), the same villain who attacked the safe house and is Koskov’s main enforcer, aboard a cargo plane filled with opium and a bomb timed to go off shortly. Necros is given the boot from the plane in mid-flight. Later in Tangiers, Koskov is arrested by Pushkin and the psychopathic Whitaker is killed in his war museum house as he engages Bond in a military-style gun battle. The naive Kara comes out of this adventure unharmed and goes on a world tour playing her cello.

It was somehow more entertaining than how it sounds.

A-Ha sings the theme song.