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The Living Daylights (1987)   rating

Review: written 2007

Breath of Fresh Air

The Living Daylights

After Moore had brought Bond almost to a pension, it is a breath of fresh air to have a younger actor playing the role - and one with the acting chops to make the role closer to the Fleming vision of a conflicted and independent man.

Bond helps a Russian general defect, only to have him turn out to have his own agenda, teaming with an arms dealer to swindle the Russians out of money and use the British to cover his tracks. The plot hinges round the general's girlfriend, played by Maryam D'abo, who Bond befriends to uncover the truth.

The series gets an injection of energy from having someone new in the role, with the tired feel of a rehash seen in the previous Moore movies evaporating as we see the actor do the stunts and get his teeth into the new role. In particular, John Barry has delivered a new, fresh sound to his familiar themes and his final Bond score is arguably one of his best. Another Bond veteran, director John Glen, is clearly enjoying the change of pace and has put together some terrific set pieces - the pre-titles sequence in Gibraltar is one of the best, the aerial stunts hanging off the plane are standout, and it's a joy to see the Aston Martin back, loaded with gadgets.

On the down side, this was a movie written before a decision was made on who would fill Bond's shoes, and too much silliness has been held over. Dalton plays the action man with conviction, but his attempts to deliver quips are so flagged and forced that there are moments when you wish Moore was there to show him how it should be done. Crucially, if a Bond movie is as good as its villains, then this one fails dismally, with few acting worse as a Bond villain than Jeroen Krabbe. Joe Don Baker as an arms dealer is also a woefully bad idea, giving the core of the movie an unconvincing tone. Only the killer Necros, played by the dancer Andreas Wisniewski feels worthy of a Bond villain, in a role which is otherwise an underwritten rehash of Robert Shaw's character in From Russia with Love.

Timothy Dalton may not have rocked the world as Bond, the film is too long, and feels oddly neutered as political correctness police start to influence Bonds course just a bit (ironic, given the highly embarrassingly anachronistic Afghan politics portrayed!) but this is a great fresh start and stands above much of what has gone before in the previous decade.

It's an above average Bond film which is starting to show a little age.

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