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John Glen
Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Art Malik, Andreas Wisniewski, Thomas Wheatley, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown
Writing Credits:
Ian Fleming (story), Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson

Living on the edge. It's the only way he lives.

In this installment of the James Bond series, Agent 007 (Timothy Dalton) is assigned to protect a Russian defector (Maryam d'Abo) from the KGB. When the defection proves to be an elaborate ploy, Bond woos her anyway, and together they follow a trail to a crooked American arms dealer supplying weapons to Afghanistan. Dalton finally assumes the role of Bond after refusing it 16 years earlier with Diamonds Are Forever. The film is loosely based on Ian Fleming's short story.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Domestic Gross
$51.185 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 10/17/2000

• Audio Commentary with Director John Glen, Actors Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Andreas Wisniewski, and Joe Don Baker, Director of Photography Alec Mills, Publicist Jerry Juroe, Production Supervisor Anthony Waye, Effects Supervisor John Richardson, Co-Producer/Co-Writer Michael Wilson, and Still Unit Photographer Keith Hamshere
• "Inside The Living Daylights" Documentary
• “Ian Fleming – 007’s Creator” Documentary
• Music Video
• “The Making of the Music Video” Featurette
• One Deleted Scene
• Still Gallery
• Trailers
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Living Daylights (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2006)

When Timothy Dalton was cast as James Bond for 1987's The Living Daylights, it marked the start of a new era. After four straight Bonds in the late Sixties/early Seventies featured a different lead actor in each one, Roger Moore gave stability to the franchise. Beginning in 1973, he completed seven consecutive Bond movies before it was time for him to move along after 1985's A View to a Kill.

Though he wasn't the initial choice for 007, Dalton marked a departure for the role as the series attempted to return to a grittier style after the often-cartoony Moore years. While this could have created new life for the series, unfortunately it almost killed the franchise. Dalton only lasted two movies; 1989's Licence to Kill was his second and final outing as Bond. That film's less-than-scintillating reception put the series' future in doubt, and for the first time since it started in 1962, the Bond franchise went on hiatus for a few years; we wouldn't see another 007 adventure until 1995's revitalizing GoldenEye.

Dalton seems to have gotten a reputation as the man who almost killed 007, but now that I've seen both of his films in the role, I think that concept is tremendously unfair to him. Based on the high quality of those two movies, I think that the public's disinterest in the franchise had virtually nothing to do with the pictures themselves. Maybe folks simply were tired of Bond as a whole. Certainly we took the series for granted, since no more than two years ever passed without a new 007 flick. The break may have made us remember why we loved the franchise so much.

In any case, I think that if the people who avoided the Dalton Bonds took a look at them, they'd be pleasantly surprised. Although I slightly prefer the even-grittier Licence to Kill, The Living Daylights is almost as solid and exciting a movie; it's a thoroughly terrific little piece.

As with many (most?) Bond films, the plot to Daylights can be fairly convoluted. However, it all comes together nicely; it may be confusing for a while, but the loose ends get tied together neatly and all make sense without too much extraneous effort from the filmmakers. The story covers a lot of physical territory and does it logically and smoothly.

Like Kill, Daylights works best due to its impressive action pieces. For years, Bond movies included fantastic stunts but ruined these with dopey attempts at humor. The two Daltons largely eliminated this aspect of the series, which makes the action scenes come across as much more exciting and visceral. Really, I think these two movies provide some of the best action of the Bonds; they really took that element to another level, and Dalton's tough physical presence makes them seem all the more convincing.

I remain undecided what I think of Dalton's portrayal of Bond, however, as I feel he often tried too hard to be "different". It seems like an overly-intellectualized performance. Except for the one-flop wonder sacrifice of George Lazenby in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, all the other Bonds - Sean Connery, Moore, and Pierce Brosnan - provide their own characterizations that seem to flow naturally from their own personalities. Whether you think their work is good or bad, all of these actors appear pretty effortless in the role and never seem "forced".

The same cannot be said for Dalton. I recall reading interviews with him at the time, and he always stressed how he was going to portray Bond as originally depicted in Ian Fleming's books. It's all well and good for him to strive for this form of authenticity, I suppose, but after 25 years of movies, Fleming's conception was largely irrelevant; the films had become the way the character was interpreted, novels be damned.

Since I have to read much of Fleming's works, I don't know how close Dalton got to his goal, but I think he seemed self-consciously "tough" at times, and this undermines his goals. For example, at one point he essentially tells "Q" that if he fired Bond, he'd be doing him a favor. Dalton spits this out with bitter, nasty swagger that just seems off in the film. Dalton also tries to humanize Bond through showing mild but obvious fear and anxiety at times. This just doesn't work, as it feels like an intellectual decision and not an emotional one; Moore or Connery would convey small looks of concern, but Dalton's appearance feels overly emotive.

Don't get me wrong: Dalton gives us more "good" than "bad", and he seemed more natural in the role the second time around in 1989. I'm also all for grittier action in the Bonds, as I really don't like the silliness that marked so many of the Moore outings. However, old Tim needed to lighten up a little, and he has trouble with the more suave aspects of the role; his Bond comes across a too much of a thug at times.

I also remain divided as to my opinion of Maryam d'Abo as our only (almost) "Bond girl", Russian cellist Kara Milovy. On one hand, she provides a more natural and real presence than the usual stiff Bond bimbos. D'Abo's clearly a huge step up from sexy but talentless Tanya Roberts in View and she handles both the sensitive and the tough sides of her character nicely. Milovy is one of the few Bond women who gets to take charge at times, and D'Abo portrays this side of the equation believably.

However, I had some trouble with her just because she isn't a terribly gorgeous woman. To be sure, she's very pretty, but she seems rather bland and ordinary, at least compared to her predecessors. She lacks the exoticism typical of Bond women, and is actually less lovely than the new Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss)! As with Dalton, D'Abo's positive sides outweigh the negative, but I don't feel as clearly high on her as I'd like.

Despite these concerns, I think The Living Daylights marks one of the better Bond films. Actually, I believe it was the best since 1965's Thunderball; while some good movies appeared in the interim, I wouldn't consider any of them to approach greatness, whereas Daylights almost gets there. It doesn't quite get to the level of the best Connery flicks, but it makes for a tremendously exciting and compelling film in any case. The Living Daylights is a true winner.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Living Daylights appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A smattering of problems cropped up here, but the movie usually looked okay.

Sharpness was a little lackluster at times. Most of the movie seemed acceptably distinctive and concise, but wide shots tended to be a smidgen ill-defined. Some of that stemmed from a bit of mild edge enhancement. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, though. Print flaws displayed occasional speckles, marks and a few nicks. These were more substantial than I’d like given the movie’s age, but they were never a major distraction.

Colors always remained solid and clear, with tones that looked accurate and rich. The best examples arrived during the carnival sequence in chapter 18, which showed off the varied and bright palette through cartoony colors. Even in more subtle scenes, however, the hues stayed very fine.

Black levels largely appeared deep and dark with positive contrast. Shadow detail tended to be somewhat flat, though, especially during interiors. Those were somewhat dense. Overall, this was a fairly good image, but it suffered from too many flaws for a grade over a “B-“.

Not all is happy here, however, as MGM's one-time Achilles' heel snaps once again. As with initial review DVDs of their release of This Is Spinal Tap and (apparently) all copies of The Delta Force, The Living Daylights lacks some of the film's original "burned-in" English subtitles. During chapter seven, Rubavitch (Virginia Hey), a Russian who helps Bond smuggle out an apparent defector, distracts her boss with her ample...uh...affections. Once the coast is clear, she abruptly stops the nookie and makes an indignant comment to her chief before she leaves.

From what I've heard, the subtitles should say something such as, "I'm not that kind of girl!" However, since no text appears, you won't know this unless you remember it from prior releases of the film. Why MGM have so much trouble keeping movies' original subtitles intact is a mystery. Granted, this example isn't nearly as problematic as the case of The Delta Force, which loses a large amount of untranslated dialogue, especially since we can figure out what Rubavitch says due to the context. However, the omission is annoying.

With the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Living Daylights, we find a strong piece of work. The forward soundfield dominated the proceedings with some very broad and lively audio. We're treated to a lot of great discrete sound from the front three speakers that created a nice environment throughout the film. The audio blended well and provided a very engaging presence that increased the intensity of the action. Surround usage seemed more incidental and less active, but the rears contribute some useful effects during the bigger action scenes. The surrounds appeared monaural but they integrated well with the rest of the track.

Audio quality seemed a little "hard" at times but generally was fine. Dialogue betrayed mild edginess at times but usually appeared natural and distinct, with no problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth without any harshness, and it also displayed some solid low end at times.

Effects occasionally came across as slightly distorted, particularly during some of the louder scenes. However, many of these segments were clean and accurate and showed no signs of roughness; for example, the "milkman" attack scene seemed nicely crisp and without problems. Overall the effects appeared reasonably realistic and concise, and they presented nice bass on many occasions. The soundtrack doesn't quite compete with more modern affairs, but even with some minor flaws, I thought it worked well.

The Living Daylights features a complement of extras that will seem happily familiar to Bond fans. We start with an audio commentary culled from a collection of interviews with cast and crew members. Hosted by Bond historian David Naylor, this track features remarks from director John Glen, actors Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Andreas Wisniewski, and Joe Don Baker, director of photography Alec Mills, publicist Jerry Juroe, production supervisor Anthony Waye, effects supervisor John Richardson, co-producer/co-writer Michael Wilson, and still unit photographer Keith Hamshere.

As usual with these tracks, we get a good overview of the creation of the film. Glen dominates the proceedings, but many of the other participants contribute lots of information. The emphasis is on anecdotes about the production, and through these we learn a lot of information about the movie. The participants cover bringing in a new Bond, locations, sets and production design, stunts, action and effects, cinematography and performances, the theme song, and updating Bond. The commentary fits in well with other similar offerings in this line as it covers various topics smoothly and concisely.

We also get the usual pair of video programs. First is the standard documentary about the film. Called Inside The Living Daylights, this 33-minute and 30-second show combines a mix of film clips, interview segments, and behind the scenes footage. Most of the interviews are contemporary, but some of them - mainly those with Dalton - come from the era in which the film was produced.

The program provides a terrific look at the making of the movie, starting with an examination of the search for a new Bond after the departure of Roger Moore following the release of A View to a Kill. Best part? We get to see some of Sam Neill's test footage. We also find d'Abo's early screentests plus cool shots of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the set. The discussions of the movie tend toward anecdotal coverage, and we learn a variety of nice details. It's another solid documentary.

The second program takes a biographical look at the man behind Bond. Called Ian Fleming - 007's Creator, this 42-minute and 55-second show gives us a solid view of his life. We hear contemporary comments from various historians, relatives and colleagues. These include folks like actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee (who both knew Fleming, so they're connected to him above and beyond their Bond film roles), and Hugh Hefner (who helped promote the Bond books through their serialization in Playboy). We also witness archival (1969) interviews with Fleming's brother, some friends (including Noel Coward), and Fleming himself. Interspersed with these snippets are film clips and some historical photos and footage.

I thought the show worked well because it offered a "warts and all" look at Fleming's life. The guy sounds like he was something of a cad, and the documentary doesn't hide that fact while it also provides a fitting tribute to the work he created. Ultimately, these two factors balance nicely and make a program that is quite watchable and compelling.

A few other extras round out the DVD. We get one deleted scene. Called The Magic Carpet Ride, this one-minute and 35-second snippet actually is a very fun little action bit that one is mildly sad to learn didn't make the cut. However, I understood perfectly well while they deleted the scene; it's very light and comic and seems more in keeping with the tone of the Moore years. I think it might have worked, since it was the exception, not the rule, but I can't quibble strongly with its omission.

Eighties pop has-beens a-ha created the film's so-so title tune, and we find its music video here. Though the clip follows the usual lip-synch/movie snippet format, it integrates them in a mildly interesting way that makes the video more compelling than most. Not much more compelling, but it's a watchable piece; it's not as good as the semi-fun bit for Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", but it sure beats Rita Coolidge's atrocity "All Time High" from Octopussy.

If you just can't get enough of a-ha, then you'll be happy to learn we also get The Making of the Music Video. This three-minute and 50-second puff piece provides a superficial look at the creation of the clip. It's worth a look because it features some comments from composer John Barry, but otherwise it's not terribly fascinating.

Finally, the DVD finishes with three trailers. We get the North American teaser, the UK teaser, and the actual release trailer. The package includes the usual solid eight-page booklet. This piece features a mix of production text about the movie and the series plus some photos. I've always liked MGM's booklets, and this is another good one.

Timothy Dalton didn't last long as Bond, but his two films stand as some of the best of the series. The Living Daylights isn't quite as good as follow-up Licence to Kill, but it's a very solid effort that provides a gritty, exciting story. The DVD offers acceptable to good picture and sound plus some consistently strong extras. The Living Daylights is a "must have" for Bond fans and should be given definite consideration from any fans of action fare.

To rate this film visit the Ultimate Edition review of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main