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.
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.
John Barry's score
The safe house sequence
"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
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
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