The Living Daylights (1987)

the living daylights

“Whoever she was, I must have scared the living daylights out of her.”

The Scoop:1987 PG, directed by John Glen and starring Timothy Dalton, Joe Don Baker, Maryam d’Abo, and John Rhys-Davies

Tagline: Living on the edge. It’s the only way he lives.

Summary Capsule: Evil Russians scheme against good Russians and the rest of the world could be in jeopardy, except that James Bond finds a young female Russian cellist intriguing so he’ll probably save the world just to impress her.

Kyle’s rating: No space shuttles and just a teeny tiny laser, but fun nonetheless!

Kyle’s review: As usual, the world and/or peace is at risk again, and while it would cost well-meaning politicians and diplomats lots of time and effort to figure things out and make everything better, it will only take Agent 007, James Bond, a couple days, maybe even a couple hours, to save us all. Along the way, of course, he’s sure to have a vodka martini or two, shrug off some near bullet hits and nearby explosions, and in the course of his adventures live out 85% of Earth’s male population’s personal fantasies. Man, he’s good!

Bond, James Bond (Timothy Dalton) barely has time to rest after a disastrous training exercise before he takes part in an elaborate plan to help Russian General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) defect to the west and provide important top-secret information. Too bad the Russians want him back. Or do they? There is a lot of double-dealing and back-stabbing going on here, but fortunately Bond is on the case and when necessary he trusts instincts, not orders (obscure Living Daylights in-joke that you’ll get soon enough). Bond will have to deal with explosions, lots and lots of bullets, and the first appearance of Joe Don Baker in the series (as a bad guy!). But it’s all good, because he’ll get his vodka martinis (shaken not stirred, mind you), break in a tuxedo or two, and scare the living daylights out of a woman or two. Oh, and save the world (but that’s kind of expected, you know?).

As far as I’m concerned, The Living Daylights is woefully underrated as a great Bond film. Dalton takes over as Bond after Roger Moore’s long tenure in the role, and he too is underrated. Dalton clearly didn’t dig the humor-accompanied-by-raised-eyebrow approach to Bond that Moore brought and preferred the methodical and icy assassin for the good guys that Sean Connery and (especially) the original Ian Fleming books presented. Still, while Dalton’s Bond is 90% business, there is 10% “I’m all about pleasure, baby” that gets spread through the movie in parts, particularly in dealing with Bond’s reputation and still omnipresent penchant for wry one-liners. Yep, Bond remains the most dangerous man alive and you never doubt for a moment that not only can Bond do these incredible saves and stunts, but he is perhaps the only hero that could.

The film is quite good. Bond fanatics will appreciate the nuances Daylights has in comparison with the rest of the series, and standard Bond fans will find this has enough of the expected fun and action to be entertaining. There are the typical “that’s amazing!” Bondian stunt set pieces, with the most impressive here probably being the fight between Bond and main henchman and Pretenders fan Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) on a huge net full of opium sacks hanging out the back of an airplane. Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) is a great modern Bond girl, in that she’s pretty hot, smart, and artistic, and once she meets up with Bond she starts kicking ass with all the punching and firing of machine guns that entails. Koskov and Whitaker (Baker) are credible “real world” villains in that they don’t want to take over the world like other Bond villains, but they’ve got a good evil scheme and the means to make it work. Some people might find Bond allying with a group of freedom fighters in Afghanistan distasteful in modern times, but just trust in Bond and you won’t go wrong.

Give The Living Daylights a try. Other Bond films are more world-class and in-your-face, but for a smart spy thriller that’s believable as long as you trust in the possibility of a super spy, this is wonderful. Dalton is great, and I guess my only complaint is making Miss Monnypenny (the lovely Caroline Bliss) a Barry Manilow fan. To each their own, I suppose!

The new Bond car is a little under budget
The new Bond car is a little under budget


  • Walter Gotell, who had appeared in earlier Bond films as “nice” Russian General Gogol, was supposed to be in the place of General Pushkin but couldn’t on account of his poor health.
  • Smiert Spionem, the Russian campaign “death to spies” that costs some of Bond’s allies their lives, is based upon SMERSH, a villainous organization Bond battled in the original Fleming novels.
  • Maryam d’Abo was originally hired only to appear in screen tests opposite potential new James Bonds.
  • Timothy Dalton was originally considered for the role of James Bond in the early 1970s, after Sean Connery left the role following 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. He turned down the part as he thought he was too young.
  • This is the final Bond film [until Casino Royal -Eunice] to use one of Ian Fleming’s original story titles. From here on, the titles will be original, though the series would go for one more film (License to Kill) before exhausting available Fleming story elements.
  • Though only a henchman, Necros takes it upon himself to have his very own theme music, namely “Where Has Every Body Gone?” by The Pretenders. Obviously, his Walkman cord is what kills his victims, but how much pain does the song inflict?
  • In the pre-credits sequence, three Double-0 agents are seen taking part in an official training exercise. It’s a slight resemblance, in my opinion, but the other two agents were cast because they looked like Roger Moore and George Lazenby, respectively. Neat, eh?
  • In the opening scene at Gibraltar, real military installations were used. These included a Ministry of Defense road not open to the public. The machine gun nest on the airstrip was not authentic.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Sure, just to stay to see the inevitable promise “James Bond will return.”

Groovy Quotes

Kara Milovy: You were wonderful! We’re free!
James Bond: Kara, we’re inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan!

James Bond: We have a saying Georgi, and you’re full of it.

Kara Milovy: What happened?
James Bond: He got the boot!

[Referring to his machine gun versus Bond’s hand gun.]
Brad Whitaker: You’ve had your eight, now I have my eighty!

Woman on Yacht: [into phone] It’s all so boring here, Margo — there’s nothing but playboys and tennis pros. [sighs] If only I could find a real man!
[James Bond, having just dispatched an assassin in a burning truck in mid-air, lands on the boat with a smoldering parachute.]
James Bond: I need to use your phone. [takes it and speaks into it] She’ll call you back.
Woman on Yacht: You are who?
James Bond: Bond, James Bond. [into phone] Exercise Control, 007 here. I’ll report in an hour.
Woman on Yacht: [offering drink] Won’t you join me?
James Bond: [into phone] Better make that two.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Any James Bond film (the official ones!)
  • Sneakers
  • Never Say Never Again

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