Friday, 16 March 2012

BlogalongaBond / The Living Daylights:
I ♥ Timothy Dalton

Maybe it's because it was my first ever Bond film in a cinema. Maybe it's because I was exactly the right age to start appreciating Bond films for what they were and could be. Or maybe it's just because it's absolutely brilliant. Whatever the reasons, and there are several, The Living Daylights is my clear favourite James Bond film up to this point in BlogalongaBond's history.

There's almost too much to love about it, but what never ceases to amaze me is that it was made by the very same writing, directing and producing team that only two years before had squatted over the franchise and curled out A View To A Kill. Anybody would think there had been some single, vital change to the series, perhaps in the regular cast, that would turn it from laughing stock to cinematic force to be reckoned with.
But more about that later. Let's just take a moment to thank screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson for writing a spy thriller that's both a) thrilling and b) about spies. No certifiable loons trying to wipe out humanity with a bomb on the moon strapped to a double-taking pigeon here, just realistic (albeit power-crazy) opportunists reacting to real-life political turmoil, but causing just enough bother to warrant investigation from Her Majesty's Secret Service.

It's an intelligent, audience-respecting script that drip-feeds details at exactly the right pace, and it's to be even further congratulated for not being built around a series of set-pieces. They're there, to be sure, but for the first time since On Her Majesty's Secret Service they feel like they're a logical progression of the story. Even the escape-by-cello-case makes sense, and it's a mercy that the case isn't equipped with whoopee cushions or rear-mounted stink bomb launchers as it might have done if Roger Moore had been driving.

But yes, when all is said and done, by far the best thing about The Living Daylights is Mr Timothy Peter Dalton, also known as The Best James Bond, Like, Ever. At long last we've got an actor playing Bond, rather than a film star. Just look at a selected filmography - the names of the characters he's played over the years practically scream RADA:
Maybe that last one is pushing it a bit

Dalton owns Bond from the moment he realises shenanigans are afoot at the Rock Of Gibraltar. Immediately making two other Double-0 agents look like bumbling amateurs, he launches into one of the series' best chases for yonks, doing most of his own stunts along the way. But the action is a fraction of what makes Dalton special: he knows Fleming's Bond inside out. He smokes almost constantly (and did so in interviews and press conferences at the time), has absolutely no time for incompetent colleagues and pretty much hates his job. "Stuff my orders," he barks at foppish fuckwit Saunders. "Tell M what you want. If he fires me I'll thank him for it." This may just be the greatest line in any Bond film, ever.

MI6 flunky Saunders might be an officious prick, but that's all the better for bringing out the best from both the cracking script and Dalton's unfaltering work in the film. In their first meeting, Saunders immediately rubs Bond up the wrong way by commenting on his lateness, criticising his appreciation of a fine laydee, treating him like a subordinate and failing to operate a pair of night vision goggles.
Bond visibly bristles at Saunders' remarks, and when it comes to carrying out the mission Dalton gives subtle hints as to the discomfort and doubt coursing through Bond's icy veins. It's already literally impossible to imagine Roger Moore in the role. When they meet again in Vienna, it's Bond's turn to treat Saunders like a child, and Saunders actually relaxes as Bond's unorthodox methods beginning to make sense to him. At this point their relationship improves, and they part on good terms - Bond even gives Saunders a "well done" and "thanks", and with the slightest of glances that would have been beyond his predecessors, Dalton conveys his growing admiration for his colleague. Although he does look a bit like he wants to kiss him on the willy.
In just a few short scenes there's a real sense of warmth developing between two otherwise clinical agents here, and it's a welcome rarity in the series. All of which makes Saunders' brutal murder more devastating, and Bond's reaction to it so convincing. He's furious that it happened, that he couldn't prevent it and that he's lost someone who might have turned out to be a friend, and Dalton uses everything in his arsenal - his stance, his eyes, his jaw, even his hands - to get all that across effortlessly. It sounds a bit ridiculous to congratulate an actor so much for acting, but lest we forget, this is the same film series in which the hero's most emotionally resonant gesture used to be the animation of one or both eyebrows.
I could go on for days about what a great Bond film The Living Daylights is, but that would be intolerable for everyone so imagine a slow-motion montage of the following highlights, perhaps set to soft music: Bond headbutting a bad guy for the first time; the none-more-'80s silhouette of Dalton's suit; Bond pulling his Velcro collar over before he shoots Kara; Q taking tablets after climbing stairs; the return of the Aston Martin; the gag with the cello case in the phone box; Bond killing Necros with a shoelace rather than a watch that turns into a laser-guided cannon. I love all these things and more, but most of all I love Timothy Dalton, and in 1987 I wanted nothing more than for him to play Bond for the rest of my life. That's not too much to ask, right?


John Barry's score
Barry's twelfth and final Bond score is sublime. Melding his typically terrific swooning and sinister orchestral work with '80s synths to create a Bond sound completely of its time, he bowed out in true style, even cameoing as the Carnegie Hall conductor in the film's epilogue. Just one of the brilliant moments in this score comes as Bond gives Necros the boot: the same cue is used as when Necros murdered Saunders, lending the scene a sense of satisfying revenge. Other composers will come and go, bringing their own styles to the series, but each of their Bond scores will be a collaboration with John Barry whether they like it or not.

The safe house sequence
One of the greatest sequences in The Living Daylights doesn't even feature James Bond: he's off in his Aston Martin listening to some serious jazz while a milkman who looks suspiciously like Die Hard's tiny-footed terrorist lays waste to the safe house containing fake defector Koskov. Necros' fight with the remarkably handy-with-his-fists butler is a triumph of stuntmanship and editing, and Andreas Wisniewski is so effectively chilling that I have never been able to fully trust a Walkman-wearing milkman since.

"Where are you going?" "To drop an F-Bomb"

In the course of researching this post I spent several years training to be a lip-reader just so that I could confirm that yes, Timothy Dalton definitely says "fucking hell". If only swearing had been in week one, I would have saved a lot of time and money.

The hanging-out-of-the-back-of-a-plane bit
Somebody obviously knew that the shoddy stunt doubling work of A View To A Kill would one day be ripped apart by a mentally unhinged blogger, because in The Living Daylights it's faultless, particularly in this heart-halting scene where Bond and Necros hang thousands of feet above the Afghanistan desert with only a piddly carabina clip keeping them from splattering on the mountains below. Stunt gods BJ Worth and Jake Lombard are the ones actually and literally hanging on by their fingernails, and I salute them for it.

The correctly deleted scene
Wilson & Maibaum just couldn't help squeezing in the kind of insultingly stoopid visual gag that Roger Moore would probably have considered genius. Fleeing from the Tangier rozzers, Bond escapes on a carpet thrown over some cables, which looks like a flying carpet to the simple, shisha-smoking locals HAHAHA. The scene was shot and cut together, but at the last moment director John Glen came to his senses and put it out of its misery. It's a fascinating aside on the DVD but by crikey it does not belong within a trillion miles of this film.

BlogalongaBond will return with Licence To Kill

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here

16 comments :

  1. Finally someone else who sees Dalton's Bond for the brilliance it is. Next time someone laughs at me for claiming Dalton was the best Bond I shall point them here becuase you explain it so much better than I can.

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    1. You aren't alone, I've always considered Dalton to be the best Bond. He's certainly closest the the character in the books. It's too bad he only made the two films, but they're both great.

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  2. Woop - I thought I was the ony one who thought Dalton was the best Bond.

    1.Dalton
    2.Craig
    3.Connery
    4.Brosnan
    5.Lazenby
    6.Holness
    7.Niven
    8.other people
    9.some other dude
    10.Cazenove
    11.A dream I had of a tramp playing Bond
    12.A dream I had where Jesus played Bond..it was hilarious
    13.The invisible man plays Bond in a film written in my head
    14.The mentally challenged person I met who thought he was the real James Bond
    15.Moore

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    1. This is the best list of anything ever, especially as its 100% true, I have also had similar dreams...

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  3. This review is almost as sublime as Dalton's acting.

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  4. I'm so glad you pointed out the genius of Bond's working relationship with Saunders with picture-based LOLs, because I don't think I got it across properly with my review. Most importantly, people just need to watch the film, because it's fucking amazing.

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  5. If you were 14 years old for the release of Dr. No, 15 for From Russia With Love,16 for Goldfinger, 17 for Thunderball and 19 for You Only Live Twice, then like him or not, Sean Connery was James Bond and things like a radio telephone the size of a crate of beer or a tracking device with a screen the size used by air traffic controllers were leading edge technology. M, Q and Moneypenny were fixtures too. All this made a big impression on me as a teenager. After that any other 'James Bond' is just a stand in like David Niven in Casino Royale (1967)

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  6. I always liked the Dalton ones. Haven't seen them for years though. Will be interesting to see if it's more than just relief from Roger.

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  7. Mark, I noticed you'd noticed that too. Great minds think alike.

    Paul, of course it's more than Rodge relief you silly sausage. Why have you denied yourself the pleasure for so long?

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  8. You didn't even mention one of my favorite aspects - Bond's relationship with Kara. She's not arm candy that Bond nails to get information ... they actually develop a connection over the movie, and you could totally see them riding off into the sunset if that were the sort of thing Bond did.

    Maryam d'Abo played Kara perfectly. She was naive, but not an incompetent blonde bimbo like in the previous film.

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  9. It is Living Daylights that I have watched more than any other Bond film. Chiefly due to the Aston Martin and cello ski chase. As an avid collector of Fleming First Editions, Dalton’s character brought the man from page to screen. Daniel Craig though successful as the public’s Bourney demand for a grittier Bond, come across as a psychopathic candidate in the Apprentice. Dalton’s low key style made him believable as a pencil stabbing civil servant. His touch of arrogance and “Get the fuck out of my way” stride matched the Aston Martin and his dominance of the female associate.

    Five reasons why TLD is in the Top 5

    i) The Aston Martin; elegant bruiser of a car
    ii) The Blaydon Safe House; reinforcing the Britishness of the franchise as did M's gaff in OHMSS
    iii) The Afganhistan Scenery; although Kamran Shah would today be living in a cave wanking to Osama tapes "A hangover from my Oxford days"

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  10. i koodant av rittun dis betta myself. Mainly cos me rightin is so bluddy shyte. Hooray for Wales and Dalton.

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  11. Hey! This was not the first time Bond headbutts a villain. Bond headbutted Jaws on the cable car in Moonraker.

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  12. Call me slow but watching this for the umpteenth time today and finally realised why Bond kicks out the windscreen the pre-credits sequence, it's so the reserve parachute will inflate (is that the right expression?!).

    Captain Slow

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  13. watching this yesterday I began to picture Moore in TLD and certain scenes (e.g the opening Bond turnaround when the 00 agent falls, the Flemingesque sniper scene, losing Saunders, the end fight on the plane with plenty of Moore style 'oooOOOhhhs!') .

    someone (like TIS) should start a photo manip project of Bond actors in various other Bonds movies . So Moore in Daltons, Connery in Moores, Brosnans in Daltons, Dalton in Brosnans, Brosnan in Craigs, Saint Moore in Connerys etc etc.

    could do it for the posters too

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