Roger Moore has retired. And rightly so. His movies were fast becoming tiresome, as I’m sure he was, jumping and running around after bad guys, leaping out of cars and things. At least he can say that he’s been an active granddad. Now, Timothy Dalton is James Bond, and after sitting through seven of Moore’s performances, I must say it’s a challenge adjusting to his dark hair and cleft chin.
He is, by quite a distance, the most serious Bond so far. He has a sternness in his voice that none of the other Bonds had, and he uses it to both intimidate as well as to serenade, which can be a little unsettling at times. Connery, Moore, and even Lazenby, knew that the character of James Bond is an unbelievable one, and so they played him with that knowledge in hand. They never took the role too seriously, which is what I’m afraid Dalton does. He acts as if his life could truly be in danger, even when he’s dangling from a netted cargo of a plane some hundred miles in the air. We know that he will survive and end up with the girl. He doesn’t know this.
This would be fine if the Bond movies adopted a more realistic approach, but they don’t. The Living Daylights, the fifteenth installment, is as preposterous and explosive as the previous fourteen. There are still too many instances where Bond should have died, and yet he lives to fight another day. Dalton should have gone into this movie knowing this, and used it to his advantage. He is a good Bond; he has charisma, presence, and a knack for weapons and fighting, but he loses it a bit when he fails to crack a smile in the face of danger. Because as we all know, Bond never takes his danger seriously.
There is another thing he shouldn’t have taken seriously in this movie: The Bond Girl. She is Kara something-or-rather (Maryam d’Abo), a Russian cellist who is caught up in some diabolical scheme that involves crooked American arms dealers, crooked Russian generals, and a bunch of disgruntled Afghan resistance fighters. The only one played by an actor of matching nationality is the American. Everyone else is mismatched. But the most mismatched is Kara. She is underwhelming as a Bond Girl, and deeply unimportant to the story. I could tell you if she lives or dies, if she sleeps with Bond or doesn’t, but does it really matter? In many scenes, I wasn’t even aware that she was sharing the screen with Dalton. She isn’t a good Bond Girl.
And the American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker) and the crooked Russian general (Jeroen Krabbe) aren’t good Bond villains. I cannot even tell you which one is responsible for the movie’s plot. Are they working together? Are they working for one another? Do they have shared goals? Who knows? I certainly don’t, and neither do they. The arms dealer, Whitaker, is like a loony child. He has a collection of mini figures and landscapes of famous wars, and he spends his time reenacting battle scenes. He also has a collection of war veteran statues that appear to have the face of Mel Brooks. He is in cahoots with Koskov, the Russian general who wants what all the Bond villains want: Nuclear war. He also wants weapons and a large shipment of opium. If this doesn’t confuse you, try watching the movie backwards.
I was hoping that Dalton would lift the franchise up a notch. It was fast becoming a forgettable series. Alas, the franchise moves not an inch. It is still repetitive, and with a lacklustre Bond Girl, insignificant villains, and a Bond who doesn’t know who Bond is, The Living Daylights does nothing to outshine its predecessors.
Best Moment | The side-boob.
Worst Moment | Felix Leiter’s horrendous acting, among others.