+++ Opinion +++
VOX shows “James Bond 007 – The Living Daylights” on August 4th at 10 p.m. This is a good opportunity to rewatch the action thriller starring Timothy Dalton as the legendary agent with a license to kill. Because I think it’s worth it here, because the film has been wrongly misjudged for so long.
» “The Living Daylights” on Amazon Prime Video*
Even when it was released in cinemas, “The Living Daylights” was criticized by many James Bond fans and this is still the case today. Timothy Dalton is neither as decisive as Sean Connery nor as charismatic as Roger Moore before him. Maryam d’Abo lacks the necessary presence for her important role at his side. And what kind of story is that anyway, in which 007 doesn’t have to save the world from a megalomaniac magnate, but is supposed to help a KGB general defect and then gets an assassination order, which then also turns into a political agent deception thriller developed numerous twists?
This is no longer a James Bond film, film critic Peter Travers complained a few years ago about both Dalton appearances in a ranking for the Rolling Stone. There “The Living Daylights” landed in third place – only undercut by the other Dalton Bond “License to Kill” and the disaster production “Quantum of Solace” with Daniel Craig.
Yet at its core, this criticism always goes back to the point that The Living Daylights is different from the previous Bond films. But why is different equal bad? That’s why it’s still refreshing for me today. In addition, hardly any other 007 film offers such good action!
As I said, Timothy Dalton as James Bond in “The Living Daylights” is supposed to help a Russian KGB general (Jeroen Krabbé) escape to the West. There, the assassin Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) almost radios him in between, but Bond is able to protect his target. The British secret service learns from the defector that the new Russian spy chief, General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), has hatched a plan: He wants to kill numerous Western agents and thus escalate the Cold War. Bond is therefore given the order to kill Pushkin. But it dawns on him that something is fishy. Instead of carrying out the assignment, he conducts his own research. They’ll get him back together with Kara Milovy soon…
This scenario, which is much more down-to-earth than the Roger Moore Bonds, with all its twists and turns and surprises, still makes me excited today. I also can’t understand the accusation of a lack of humor that Dalton likes to make. There are much less amusing scenes, but they are so well set that that “The Living Daylights” may even be the perfect mix of the different 007 worlds: high tension and humor … and above all action.
Because the mostly hand-made and well-choreographed action scenes are certainly a highlight – and also the biggest improvement over the Roger Moore era! In the end he couldn’t really shoot any action scenes himself at full speed, not only did he have to be doubled for the stunts and he often moves much too slowly, which all had a very negative effect on the films.
I belong to a (by the way not so small) group, who even considers “The Living Daylights” to be the best 007 film ever. I can see him again and again and even today I get goosebumps when I think of the grandiose opening scene (also the best of the entire series) with Dalton’s very first Bond appearance: His simply sensationally cool look over his shoulder is the perfect start to a great film!