James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – “The Living Daylights”

“The Living Daylights”


Bond: Timothy Dalton

Classic, Cheese or Crap?: CLASSIC

That’s right. You Heard me. Classic.

Timothy Dalton’s Bond gets a bad rap in the collective Pop Culture memory. Somehow, he’s been pegged as one of the “Bad Bonds”… those actors who let the series down. What he really was was one of the SERIOUS Bonds. A la the current iteration with Daniel Craig. He wasn’t smug like Brosnan, or suave like Connery. His movies didn’t have the tongue in cheek element that people had grown accustomed to with Moore’s Bond.

What they were were pretty much straight up attempts at action movies revolving around an international spy.

Unfortunately for Dalton, a) The movie going public had tired of Bond at this point. The previous 3 Bond films had been cheese and crap in various doses (“Octopussy”, “A View to a Kill”, and the non-canon but still Bond “Never Say Never Again”). Can you blame audiences if their enthusiasm had waned? b) The public already wanted Pierce Brosnan to be Bond. He was a perfect fit for the role, and had been in negotiations for the part – but Hollywood legend holds that his increased popularity from those negotiations caused NBC to renew “Remington Steele”, which delayed Brosnan from accepting the part.

So along comes Dalton, with a very different Bond than Bond fans were used to, at a time where the Bond brand wasn’t exactly at its zenith, and he wasn’t the Bond that the people would have voted into office.

He makes two movies – both of which I like (Classic and Cheese, respectively), but neither of which were massive hits – and then legal issues with rebroadcast rights entangle the franchise in courts for years. He never plays Bond again.

The Living Daylights begins with the killing of three MI6 operatives during a training mission. Only Bond is clever enough to escape. It turns out, someone is killing spies…

Bond is tasked with assisting the defection of a Russian general. During the undertaking of this task, he foils what looks to be an assassination attempt. However, the entire defection soon turns out to be a ploy to plant the general and reveal the location of MI6’s safehouse. Dozens more MI6 operatives are killed when the Russians attack it. Bond then investigates by tracking the “Assassin” he foiled, only to find out she was romantically involved with the General and asked to pretend to shoot him in order to support the plot to insert the general and attack MI6.

As Bond investigates further, he reveals a complicated international plot. Arms dealers, drug traffickers, assassins, the Taliban (well, back then Afghanis were freedom fighters and Good Guys). And as he pursues the strands, he gets involved in a number of cool action sequences, including a great finale with real stuntmen on an actual plane.

Certainly, like every Bond film, there’s plenty to nitpick at if you wish. Personally I could do without the 30 seconds where he cuts the opposing car in half with his laser, and I completely understand folks who don’t like the cello case sled incident. That’s fine.

But overall, this is a Bond flick with relatively realistic action sequences, great stuntwork, a half decent Bond girl, and Villains and Henchmen who weren’t total cartoon characters. Dalton himself played Bond as focused, determined, maybe even a bit gruff. The plot (as typical) is complex and maybe even a little convoluted, but it’s not completely ridiculous at least… the villain isn’t trying to breed a master race or corner the silicon chip market by flooding Silicon Valley.

I think the biggest problem this chapter of the Bond saga actually faced was that the world wouldn’t be ready for a hard-ass Bond for another 20 years.


14 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – “The Living Daylights”

    • Heh!!

      I’d figure out a comeback, because I do like this movie and want to defend my choice of calling it classic.

      But your “Charisma of a speed bump” comment made me laugh! That was good. I’ll just leave it there. 😀

      • I have to admit, it’s not an original. I think it’s a Bruce Willis line from an old “Moonlighting” episode that’s always stuck with me.

        I believe the whole line was something like “He’s so boring that when he was a child, his parents dressed him up for Halloween as a speed bump.”

      • Lol, that’s alright…

        There are few places in the world where being able to cite lines from a 25 year old tv show will GAIN you cred.

        Luckily, you’ve found one! 😀

  1. Sorry it took me so long to comment, I’ve had limited internet access.

    I really enjoy both Dalton films. For me their about it equal, each doing well in different areas, and not so well in others. I wouldn’t necessairly call either of them classic, but they’re certainly not cheese or crap. On the whole, I agree with everything you said.

  2. I guess you already know my thoughts on the Bond films. This one wasn’t too bad, but every time I watch it, I can’t help but imagine how much better it would have been with Brosnan. But whatever. Dalton’s not the worst Bond ever, so there’s that.

    • For the most part, yeah (Brikhaus did an excellent Bond retrospective at his site, Awesomely Shitty – LOL – you can find the link in my blogroll).

      But it’s cool to be able to discuss individually, too. We had a couple we were in total agreement on and a few where we don’t see eye to eye.

      It’s a great point about Brosnan. It WOULD have been better with him, for sure.

      For me, too, I think I still remember being so amped from leaving the theatre… Just literally so psyched they had a NEW bond and no more Moore, that I’m probably always going to overrate this one a bit.

  3. I do think Dalton gets a bit of a ba rap as Bond. I certainly understand why many don’t care for his approach. It’s extremely straight lace and Ice cold serious. His approach with the women was not an ‘A’ typical Bond style. Yes, and sometimes he does seem a bit flat as James Bond. But in many ways, that is exactley what the Bond people wanted after Rooger Moore left the role. WhiIe both enjoyable, I think one thing that is never said is that they could have used and written for his style a bit better than they did for his two films. Connery is. . . THE. . . James Bond because he can play both styles effortlessly. Moore could really only play a certain type of Bond, with slight exceptions.. Dalton kinda falls into the last camp here. Except just the opposite style, which could have been even more enjoyable if they had slightly crafted the movie more around his Bond.

    If I may rift on the movies, I think one of the main failing of Daylights is the villians are very flat and even a little weak. I think in there attemt to go totally real world, they slightly sacrificed the nature and gravity of there antagonists. Say what you will about the Moore Era as Bond ( I enjoy all styles ) But his Villians were intimidating and larger than life.
    Not even sure if I made a lick of sence.

    • You actually made a ton of sense.

      You’re right, the grounded approach WAS a trade off, and one of the areas that suffered here was undoubtedly the villains. The ARE about as down to earth and plain as Bond Villains have ever been.

      But as you said, about Dalton, “in many ways, that is exactley what the Bond people wanted after Rooger Moore left” and I count myself among that crowd. I was very excited for the Moore period to end, especially after “A View to a Kill”. So I welcomed everything Dalton brought to the table.

      Thanks for stopping by, check out some of my other posts in this series… you sound like a big bond fan!

  4. I’m with pgcooper1939 that it’s hard for me to call either Dalton film classic. I can see how you and others like these as more of just action flicks than traditional Bond flicks. And I think that’s what doesn’t sit well with me.

    The Dalton films are definitely not crap and don’t have enough cheese to call them cheese. So they are definitely in the Cleese category somewhere.

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