Terrific Timothy Dalton: The Living Daylights
Emotion, depth, vengeance, a desire for justice and Shakespearean delivery — the charm and the fear of Timothy Dalton’s James Bond…
Again I’d avoid this movie — cos 1980s and at the time I found Maryam d’Abo annoying. This Bond outing has more of the humour of Roger Moore’s Bond and some of the sexism and imperialism, but it is still very aligned with Daniel Craig’s Bond in terms of depth, the brutality and ruthlessness, the relationships, the raw emotions, the stunts and dynamism; the villain’s side kicks with unusual hair!
After a military exercise turns horribly real, we discover that there is more than one ‘00’ amidst lots of Cold War shenanigans with a deep Lawrence of Arabia romanticism about Afghan freedom fighters versus Russian tanks and bombs. Again this is much more diverse Bond than previous outings, although hopelessly romantic as the Afghan freedom fighters pit horses and guns (plus wily stealth) against Russian armoured divisions. Given what we’ve seen of fighting in Afghanistan — really?!!! Here I could see how a exotic location was use to present the ‘other’ — look at the Afghans in their strange clothes, with their oppressive Russian overlords and harem attitudes towards women. It is quite insulting to Afghan people, apart from Art Malik who turns a decent part as a leader who conceals his identity from his Russian captors and has to remind Bond to let him out of jail as an escape is made (even though he helps him to fight a frankly horrid Russian guard).
Intriguing too is the play in relationship between a Czech cellist, Kara,(sniper and girlfriend of a Russian defector General) and gentlemanly Bond who doesn’t shoot unprofessional female snipers. Whilst Bond tries to smooze her for information and leads, as the civilian in the room she is having none of it and we get a natural run up to romance between Bond and Kara. Bond even goes to a classic concert and the opera (and invests in statement fashion)! and there is a supremely romantic ending.
More disturbing is Bond’s propensity in this movie for ripping clothes off of women — to get answers, to threaten or to use them as decoys. In his anger and desire for vengeance at the loss of personnel and friends, Bond is anger unleashed and uncontrolled, and no respecter of women’s bodies. He also uses himself as a bit of a honey trap here, romancing Kara to get to her General boyfriend, with his motives becoming confused along the way.
The brilliant thing about both the Dalton Bond movies is that the villains aren’t of dubious ethnic ancestry or deformed in some way — but actual villains with real motives for doing whatever it is they plan to do. Here a Russian general appears to defect, only to be kidnapped again — but it’s part of his game plan. Jeroen Krabbe as the twisty General and Andreas Wisniewski as his striking accomplice who can switch accents with ease and dispatch 00’s with deadly glass or a milk bottle are magnificent, playing their parts to perfection and to the end, we never know if and how the General will get out of Bond’s clutches. Their friendship in the attack on the Russian base is quite something. Even Pushkin, new head of the KGB, may or may not be trustworthy.
The escape across the border using an oil pipe; sledging on a cello; a fight on and off the plane; the chase out onto the lake where Bond literally sinks his enemies with a battered Aston; the crossover between two planes on the runway and the attack on the Soviet base were thrilling. Plus always nice to see Bond in a Trabant at points! and there is cheese in the form of keyring which responds to whistling (both patriotic and sexist versions).
Equally amusing are the Q Branch visual jokes as scientists are swallowed up in sofas and a teary eyed Bond makes bitter jokes as he dispatches enemies, professionally. Not to mention Bond’s exasperated colleagues as he won’t shoot a female sniper and misuses the budget to take Kara to the opera and across the border. Not to mention the naffness of Bond trying to escape lured by two pretty women in a fast car promising a party — only this turns out to be a Felix Leiter trap! (Very Roger Moore at this point).
Kara is still not quite a Bond woman as she screams for help, pursues James onto a plane with a bomb on it and suddenly forgets how to fly a plane, nearly crashing into a mountain (having been able to tip it to James’s advantage in a fight moments earlier). Really?!!!! (This from a determined woman who insists on going back to collect her cello from the conservatoire and who can read a map which takes them onto a lake when it’s literally thrown at her, or who whilst not a professional shot will gallop off to save her man). Her character has some wild detours in personality as if the writers can’t quite decided who she should be. The quite literal dumbing down of Kara is shameful, but she is a sign of better things to come in terms of Bond equality and diversity. Unlike Miss Moneypenny who is not great in this movie — lots of simpering and fawning.
To end the score should be celebrated too — it is wonderful, adds to the excitement and A-ha’s title song keeps popping up in different forms along the way.
A lot of fun and left me wanting another Timothy Dalton Bond movie — can they bring him back?!!!!