Bonding with Bond, Day 17: The Living Daylights

Community Manager Ryan Fujitani is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

Today we come to the fourth actor to play 007, Timothy Dalton. I found his portrayal to be very different from those of his predecessors, and I liked him in the role.

The Living Daylights

With the Roger Moore era now at a close, I was eager to see what Timothy Dalton would do with 007. I believe my childhood perception of James Bond's image came from Dalton's portrayal of Bond, even though I never watched either of his films; The Living Daylights is the first Bond movie I personally recall opening in theaters, and his look was immediately recognizable to me. Plus, after Moore's elderly antics in A View to a Kill, I was ready for a fresh face.

I knew, of course, that Dalton was the next Bond, so his first appearance on screen wasn't the big dramatic reveal it could have been, I suppose. What did surprise me was that, despite what I was expecting from him, the opening scenes of The Living Daylights are pretty standard fare. Another impressive skydiving sequence begins the festivities, and then it jumps right into the action. After the mysterious killer Bond is pursuing drives an exploding jeep off a ramp and into the ocean, we find Bond climbing aboard a yacht, where a scantily clad woman on a cell phone is telling someone how she wishes for a "real man."

But as the movie went on, I began to see the stark difference between Dalton and Moore. In fact Dalton was very different from Connery, too. Moore was obviously a more jolly Bond, if smug, dropping one liners left and right and prancing about more so than strutting; Connery was a smooth-talker, arrogant and commanding, but honestly, kind of a jerk. Dalton, however, is stoic, with a face for scowling, and he seems less flippant, less coy. With Dalton's Bond, what you see is what you get, and I liked that. This might be a bit telling about my personality, but I felt that out of all the Bonds so far, Dalton is the one I'd probably get along with the best. Because, you know, I regularly pal around with British spies.

With the end of the Moore Era also came the end of Lois Maxwell as Ms. Moneypenny, so I want to say something about her. I really liked her as Moneypenny. Throughout the series, I believed that her interactions with 007, as brief and sporadic as they were, reflected a unique chemistry that was seldom found in the Bond girls he went to bed with. In fact, very early on I determined that Moneypenny would be the perfect wife for Bond, if he ever settled down. Of course, Tracy Di Vicenzo changed all that, and I actually sympathized with the melancholy Moneypenny at their wedding. But Lois Maxwell has been replaced by Caroline Bliss, and she doesn't quite achieve the same rapport with Bond. I shall reserve final judgment on her until I see more of her.

While Dalton himself was a more serious, heart-on-his-sleeve 007, The Living Daylights wasn't without its measure of campiness. The chase sequence in his new Aston Martin (the most beautiful Bond car since his DB5, in my opinion) features an enemy car being sliced in half by a laser and Bond dragging a cabin across a frozen lake before gunning it and bursting through its doors. The end of that scene, to top it off, has Bond and his female companion, Maryam D'Abo's Kara Milovy, escaping down a snowy slope on a cello case. But there are only a few such scenes, and Dalton never winks at the audience, so to speak, like Moore did; his demeanor seems to say, "I know this looks ridiculous, but I have a mission to complete!"

Overall, I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. Perhaps some of you were right in guessing that after 7 Moore films, I'd find Dalton to be refreshingly somber. But aside from his personality, I also felt that Dalton's Bond acted more like a spy here, squeezing information out of Kara Milovy and utilizing misdirection as effectively as his exploding key fob. You could also sense palpable frustration and anger at times, which made Bond a bit less godlike, and that made the film more real to me. Overall, I would say I'd rank this in the upper half of Bond films so far, and I'm looking forward to License to Kill.

My favorite line: "Stuff my orders!... Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I'll thank him for it." -- Bond says this to his partner when he's questioned about deliberately missing a sniper shot at Kara Milovy. This happens near the beginning of the movie, and it was the first indication to me that Dalton would be a different kind of Bond.

My favorite scene: Towards the end, as Bond is attempting to steer a rogue plane down a runway, Kara comes running up from behind and hugs him, grasping his head and muffling his face. Bond is visibly annoyed and you can hear him say "Kara!" in a tone that implies "Get the hell off of me! Can't you see I'm trying to fly a plane here?"

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jono decker

This is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Bond movies, and Bond's character is closer to Daniel Craig's take on him here than anywhere else before. Like Craig, Dalton nailed not just the charm, but the athleticism, the brutality, and also the beating heart beneath the assassin. Dalton was just ahead of his time, I suppose. Everyone should give him a second chance. P.S. Dalton is a riot in HOT FUZZ.

Nov 6 - 04:50 PM


Chris Moore

The thing that stands out for me in particular about the Dalton Bond films is that they actually got better as the years went by. The Connery ones were usually great by default (with a few exceptions), OHMSS was always the black sheep, Moore's were always borderline campy, and the Brosnan films started great and then declined.

Nov 6 - 05:04 PM

law d.

law dwane

The campiness does indeed creep in a few times, although it doesn't hamper the movie much. If I remember correctly, it was originally written with Moore in mind, and then adapted to a more generic Bond style, so that's where those moments came from. The was a scene filmed in which Bond escapes from one rooftop to another using a rug thrown over some cables, giving the illusion of a flying carpet. Thankfully it was cut from the final product, because it looks ridiculous.

Licence To Kill was written specifically for Dalton, and it's probably my favourite. There's still a couple of campy bits, but there's a whole lot more in the totally other direction...

Nov 6 - 05:13 PM

Bo S.

Bo Swidersky

Dalton did as many of his own stunts as the producers would allow him. That was actually Dalton clinging to the roof of that speeding Jeep in the opening sequence. That's something you'd never see Moore do in his later films. In films like For Your Eyes Only it seems they should have given Roger Moore's stunt double top billing as he appears to have more screen time.

The script was originally written for Moore, so it did have some of the infamous Moore-ian ridiculousness, like the exploding milk bottles.

Really looking forward to License to Kill-- more pet sharks, Benicio del Toro as a henchman, and a much more personal and emotional plot.

Favorite Line: While Bond is putting the moves on Kara on the Ferris Wheel, "Don't think. Just Let it happen."-- sounds like rape talk to me!

Nov 6 - 05:18 PM


Ridley Fox

A comment on the exploding milk bottles. It may appear silly, but it's not too far fetched. Certain gases when they are kept under high pressure can yield explosive results when exposed to air. So if a gas like butane were mixed in with the milk and sealed tightly in the bottle, the slightest crack in the bottle can produce the KABOOM we saw in the film.

Nov 7 - 04:35 AM

Sean B.

Sean B

Dalton was a good bond. I beleive the next one is the only Bond movie ever rated R, and for good reason. It is by far the most violent Bond movie, and in my opinion, the most realistic. Benicio Del Toro makes a good Columbian thug, and Wayne Newton is funny.

Nov 6 - 05:26 PM


Chris Moore

I think it was actually PG-13. Regardless, it was the first Bond film to receive that rating. It was also the last one in which Bond casually smoked.

Nov 6 - 06:08 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Glad to see you enjoyed Dalton's take, a very underrated Bond. The Living Daylights has always been one of my favorites. I still like Connery the best though, but if Dalton had done more flicks on the calibre of the early films, I think Dalton could have easily taken the top spot for me. Licence to Kill isn't as good but it's a damn good Bond film and is a nice break from the standard formula, hope you enjoy it!

Nov 6 - 05:26 PM


Numna Stingdoo

I absolutely hate Dalton, but maybe I was just sad or stupid or any other verb when I originally watched the Dalton movies. I need to look over these, because I have have misjudged Mr. Dalton.

Nov 6 - 05:44 PM

J S.

J Simmons

Personally, I think every Bond movie needs a little tongue in cheek comic relief. It's part of what makes it Bond. I agree that things went a bit far with Moore, but the character is all the more enjoyable if we're reminded every now and then that this is just fun, escapist entertainment.

Nov 6 - 06:00 PM


Chris Moore

I think it was actually PG-13. Regardless, it was the first Bond film to receive that rating. It was also the last one in which Bond casually smoked.

Nov 6 - 06:08 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I'm glad to hear you like because quite frankly, when Bond actors come to mind, Dalton (at least for me) is dead last. Now I'll give him a chance. And as for the over the top stuff, maybe Ryan you shouldn't take off for it. Now hear me out, I've only seen 5 Bonds and with you're articles, I'd see more. But it seems you always say "Over the top" or "campy", and it's so common, maybe that's how it's supposed to be. Now some Bonds do have to much gadgets, but doing some goofy action stuff is how it's supposed to be. Now I think you said you saw "Casino Royale" (2006) and that didn't have to many gadgets but flying from truck to truck on a runway with a bomb on the side of a truck, isn't average. (If Bond spread wings that would be too much).So some stuff is forgivable. Actually all stuff is forgivable. But I'm just saying maybe being "campy" or "over the top" is okay for Bond. Just like being "over the top" is okay for Indiana Jones. But everyone has their own opinion. Just saying.

Nov 6 - 06:09 PM


Chris Kubat

As I said the other day, when Dalton took on the role he was trying to play the character as how Ian Flemming originally written Bond in the books. The character in the books was tough, brooding, violent, etc. and that's how Dalton played him. People had a hard time accepting Dalton at first because they were so used to Moore. I guess at the time they couldn't handle a Bond that was so opposite of Moore's Bond. Over time people are starting to accept Dalton and understand what he was doing. People should give Dalton more credit since his work is a prelude to what Daniel Craig is doing now.

This movie is not one of my favorites from the series due to the weak villains and below-average story. I think the writers and producers were trying to find their footing again with the radical change in actor and tone. But the movie is saved for me due to the energetic action (especially the mid-air fight near the end) and Dalton's refreshing portrayal.

I do think License To Kill is the better of the two Dalton entries. This movie is considered to be the darkest and bloodiest of all the Bond movies. The dark tone seems to fit more with Dalton's approach and the movie is probably one of the most realistic Bond movies. This movie, to me, was kind of a prelude to what Craig did in Casino Royale. Just a shame we couldn't get a few more entries with Dalton to see how much he would grow as Bond.

Nov 6 - 06:16 PM


Brandon R

Best Bond of the 80's and the better of the 2 Dalton films. The A-ha theme song is one of my personal favorites. Part of Craig's interpretation of Bond is derived from Dalton's gritty and vulnerable persona. This film has a lot in common with From Russia with Love including the believable yet complex plot, serious tone, and lack of supervillains.

Nov 6 - 06:53 PM


Brandon R

I also remember hearing about Brosnan being approached for the role in TLD after Moore officially retired, but he was too committed to Remington Steele. I have no problems with Bond. His 2 films suit his Bond persona very well.

Nov 6 - 07:10 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

It was actually Dalton who was approached first but couldn't because of his commitment to other projects, then it was Brosnan and he got tied down by TV contracts, then they went to Dalton again and it was settled. However there was also a screen testing of other actors like Sam Niel.

Nov 6 - 07:13 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

It was actually Dalton who was approached first but couldn't because of his commitment to other projects, then it was Brosnan and he got tied down by TV contracts, then they went to Dalton again and it was settled. However there was also a screen testing of other actors like Sam Niel.

Nov 6 - 07:13 PM


Luis Heredia

Sean B: colombian (from colombia), Not columbian (from district of Columbia)...

Nov 6 - 07:14 PM


Shawn Eastridge

I used to hate both Dalton films, but, since I am attempting to keep up with you on this epic Bond journey you are undertaking, I decided to rewatch the Living Daylights. After being underwhelmed again and again by Roger Moore's ridiculous final outings, I was surprised to find that not only did I really enjoy the Living Daylights, but I actually enjoyed Dalton as Bond too. He really did make the role his own, and I don't think he's gotten enough credit for the work he did, brief though it may have been. However, I don't remember Licence to Kill being nearly as good, but, who knows? Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised again.

Nov 6 - 07:14 PM

jason h.

jason hickey

i couldnt agree more as i am also watching all bonds in a row leading up to QOS.

Nov 9 - 06:42 PM


Raymond Hopkin

I love Dalton! It certainly helps that he hails from my own country (Wales)!!! By the time his films came out, I had read all the Bond books, so although I had grown up with Moore, and still have a soft spot for Moore, it was great to see an actor portray Bond as he was meant to be. A few people have said they wished Dalton could have done some more movies, I totally agree, it would have been interesting to see him get comfortable with the role, it would also have been interesting to see how the producers would have gone with the movies too. Onto another great - Licence to Kill, enjoy it Ryan!

Nov 6 - 07:28 PM


Matt Heckler

The Living Daylights is my favorite Bond film, I love it. The first half is better than the second, but I find the overall film to be extremely enjoyable, and one that I love re-watching. The overall tone and feeling of the film is great, and Dalton is everything I think Bond ought to be.

Nov 6 - 07:41 PM


Craig Smith

I think Dalton's films are the most forgettable. I can't remember anything from his movies and i watched all the Bonds in March\April this year.

Nov 6 - 08:17 PM


Matt Willmott

"I know this looks ridiculous, but I have a mission to complete!" Hahaha! Great! I might give Dalton a second look because of this review, too!

Nov 6 - 08:40 PM

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