Timothy Dalton makes his debut as the series celebrates 25 Years of 007 and Cody's nerves are showing.
While trying to figure out how they were going to keep the James Bond series moving forward after the end of the Roger Moore era, one idea that screenwriter Richard Maibaum and co-writer/producer Michael G. Wilson had for the 1987 twenty-fifth anniversary film was to not move forward from A View to a Kill, but instead take the timeline backwards. They wrote a treatment for a James Bond origin film, a story following the character before he joined the Secret Service and became a 00, even before he earned the military rank of Commander. There seems to be very little known about what was in the treatment. The plot, villain, everything seems to have remained a mystery over the years, the only bit of information I've seen is that it features Bond as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. The treatment was handed over to producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, but while Broccoli thought it was good, he didn't think that audiences would be interested in a Bond film where he wasn't already a 00.
Maibaum and Wilson went back to work, this time drawing inspiration from Ian Fleming's short story The Living Daylights and using it as a jumping off point for a screenplay featuring James Bond as audiences had come to known him, an established secret agent.
Auditions and screen tests were held as Eon Productions searched for their new James Bond, with possibilities including Sam Neill (there's a clip of his screen test in the DVD special features), Timothy Dalton, who had been in consideration as far as back as On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when he declined to be Sean Connery's replacement because he was in his early twenties and felt he was too young for the part, and Pierce Brosnan, who originally caught Eon's attention when he visited his Bond girl wife Cassandra Harris on the set of For Your Eyes Only.
The filmmakers were still keen on Dalton, but he had to decline again. This time it was a scheduling issue that would keep him from playing Bond; he would be starring opposite Brooke Shields in an adaptation of the comic strip Brenda Starr at the time The Living Daylights was set to begin filming. With Dalton unavailable, the role went to Pierce Brosnan, who had no foreseeable conflicts since the television show that he had been the star of, Remington Steele, with which he had gained popularity in the U.S., had just been cancelled. Then, the unforeseeable happened. On the last possible day, the TV network decided to renew Remington Steele for another season. Now Brosnan had scheduling issues, too. There was an attempt made at working the filming dates out, but Cubby wasn't very enthused about the idea of having to share his Bond with weekly television. Brosnan was let go. But he would live to Bond another day.
The Brosnan complication had caused filming to be delayed just long enough that Dalton would now be available. He was cast, officially announced as the new Bond on August 6, 1986, and reported for duty on the set of The Living Daylights just two days after filming wrapped on Brenda Starr.
Following Timothy Dalton's performance of the traditional and iconic gun barrel shot, the pre-title sequence finds three 00s parachuting onto Gibraltar on a training exercise. Their objective is to penetrate the radar installations on the peninsula, and to do so they'll have to make it past the paintball-armed patrolling soldiers.
The filmmakers had some fun with the casting of the 00s. They're wearing identical outfits and helmets for their parachute jump and are shot in such a way that we can't see their faces until after they've landed and removed their helmets. Two of the 00s make perfect landings, the third gets hung up in a tree. The third is 002, and when his face and hair are revealed, he has a striking resemblance to Roger Moore. As soon as he's free of his parachute, he gets shot with a paintball. He even makes a face of comedic frustration like Moore would in such a moment. The soldier who shot him walks up and informs the Moore clone, "That's it, chum. You're out of it."
The next 00 we're shown in 004, who is meant to resemble George Lazenby, but it's not as obvious as the Moore lookalike. 004 is even less lucky than 002, as it's not a paintball-blasting soldier who takes him out of this exercise. Instead, it's a mysterious assassin in a black outfit just like the 00s'. As 004 attempts to climb the Rock of Gibraltar, the assassin silently clips a message written on a piece of paper to his rope and slides it down to him. Reading the message, 004 is instantly terrified, and for good reason, as the assassin proceeds to cut the rope and send 004 falling to his death. This makes three films in a row that have started with a dead or dying 00.
The murder of 004 catches the attention of the 00 that we haven't gotten a good look at yet. He turns to see his fellow agent tumbling down the rock, revealing to the audience the face of Timothy Dalton as James Bond, 007.
Bond pursues the assassin as he attempts to escape from Gibraltar in a Land-Rover, a chase and confrontation that ends with the vehicle taking an explosive dive off the edge of the peninsula. Bond parachutes out of the plummeting Land-Rover seconds before it blows up and drifts off over the sea, coming to a landing on the yacht of a lonely and bored woman on vacation.
The woman (played by Belle Avery, a.k.a. Kell Tyler) asks her surprise visitor, "Who are you?", to which he replies, "Bond. James Bond." He uses the woman's phone to contact Exercise Control, notifying them that he'll report in in one hour. But when the woman asks him to join her for champagne (and more, I'm sure), Bond figures, "Better make that two." And so Timothy Dalton becomes the only Bond to pack an action sequence, a successful hook-up, and the "Bond, James Bond" line all into his introduction as the character.
The Maurice Binder-designed title sequence plays out, with the film's title song performed by the popular, youth-appealing band a-ha. a-ha had had the second-best selling single of 1985 and had won several awards at the 1986 MTV Video Awards with their song "Take on Me", making them an ideal follow-up to the choice of Duran Duran for AVTAK's title song.
In addition to a-ha, the film features two original songs by The Pretenders, fronted by Chrissie Hynde.
After the title sequence, we reach the section of the film that's a reasonably faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming's The Living Daylights short story, which was first published under the title Berlin Escape and had the working title Trigger Finger. Location, names, and identities are changed for the film, but it still stays close to what Fleming wrote.
Bond has been sent on a mission in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where he meets up with his stuffy, by-the-book contact Saunders, head of Station V in Vienna. As Bond gets set up with a Walther sniper rifle in a hotel room across the street from a conservatory where an orchestral concert is being held, Saunders gives him information on what's going on: General Georgi Koskov, a top KGB mastermind, is in attendance at the concert. During intermission, Koskov is going to slip away from his KGB minders and defect to England. Koskov contacted Saunders to plan the defection and figure out his escape route. Saunders has planned everything out to the last detail, details that are on a "need to know" basis and he doesn't think Bond needs to know. Bond is only there because a KGB sniper has been assigned to watch Koskov, and Koskov specifically asked that James Bond be the man to protect him as he exits the conservatory, under the impression that Bond is the best there is.
The concert reaches intermission. Koskov slips out through a restroom window and as he starts to make his way across the street from the conservatory to the hotel, Bond spots the sniper in a top window in the conservatory. He's shocked to see that the sniper is a cello player from the orchestra, a lovely young blonde woman that he had taken note of earlier. As the woman tracks Koskov with her rifle, Bond has to take a shot before she can take a shot. But rather than kill her, Bond merely shoots the stock of her rifle.
That's enough to remove the sniper from the equation. Koskov reaches the hotel and is rushed out to Saunders' car. There, Bond takes over the defection, informing Saunders that his plan has been scrubbed. Saunders asks Bond what his escape plan is, but Bond tells him that the details are on a "need to know" basis.
Bond gets Koskov to the border through a pipeline to the West. A literal pipeline, the Trans Siberian Pipeline. At a pipeline maintenance and monitoring station, pipeline worker Rosika Miklos (who says she has worked with Bond before) distracts her supervisor - with her body - while Koskov is loaded inside a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, a tool that is sent down a line, propelled by the pressure in the line, for inspection and cleaning. This one has been specially designed, presumably by Q Branch, to carry a man within it.
Miklos may have worked with Bond before, but this is the first time the man-in-PIG escape has been attempted, so Koskov is understandably nervous as he's sent into the pipeline. All goes well, though, and Koskov is removed from the pipeline on the other side of the Austrian border by Q and some assistants, then flown away in a jet.
As Bond and Saunders drive away from the border, after the vehicle has been thoroughly searched by guards, Saunders is clearly annoyed by how the mission went and that Bond unofficially took it over from him. He rants about Bond missing the sniper on purpose and promises to tell M about it. Bond's orders had been to kill the sniper. Bond says that he only kills professionals, which that girl obviously wasn't. In the source material short story, Bond welcomes being fired for this incident, and the cinematic Bond feels the same way. "If (M) fires me, I'll thank him for it." This scene is indicative of the harder, more serious approach Dalton is taking to the character. This Bond isn't clowning around. The scene ends with Bond musing about the girl, "Whoever she was, I must've scared the living daylights out of her." The speaking of the title would've made a perfect lead-in for the title sequence, if they had used the defection sequence as a more low-key, spy thriller opening for the film.
Back in London, Bond stops by Q Branch to have Q do a computer search through the files on female KGB assassins, searching for the cello-playing sniper. While Q looks through the files, Bond has some playful banter with M's secretary Miss Moneypenny. When Bond mentions to her that he's looking for a female cellist in Czechoslovakia, Moneypenny suggests that if he's such a music lover, he should come over to her place and listen to her Barry Manilow collection.
Moneypenny is now played by Caroline Bliss, as Lois Maxwell retired alongside Roger Moore after fourteen films in the role. Bliss has never felt quite right as Moneypenny to me. She's a bit too young, at twenty-six in TLD she's at least fifteen years younger than Dalton, and she's a bit too pretty. Though she's played as a bespectacled nerd, this Moneypenny looks like a model. But she's still pathetically desperate to join the ranks of Bond's conquests.
Before leaving Q Branch, Bond watches the testing of one of the latest gadgets: a functional music boombox that also fires a rocket. Called the ghetto blaster, it's something Q has designed for the Americans. Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited the set during this day of filming in the Q lab, with Charles being the offscreen person who pressed the button to fire the rocket.
Bond goes to the Blayden safehouse, a heavily guarded mansion where Koskov is being kept and debriefed by M and Minister of Defence Sir Frederick Gray. Bond was given a list of groceries to pick up along the way and delivers the items, having improved the brands when he saw fit. For example, he upgraded the champagne to Bollinger RD. Also included is foie gras and caviar, which Koskov dismisses as peasant food, although it's OK with champagne.
Koskov tells M, Gray, and Bond that the reason he defected is his KGB superior General Leonid Pushkin, who replaced the character of General Gogol (who viewers know from his appearances in each film from The Spy Who Loved Me through A View to a Kill) when Gogol moved on to the foreign service. Koskov says that he and Pushkin were once like brothers, but power has gone to Pushkin's head. He now compares his former friend to Stalin. Pushkin has issued a new directive called Smiert Spionom, which translates to "Death to Spies", an assassination program targeting British and American agents.
The SPECTRE organization only featured in three of Ian Fleming's novels; Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. Before that, Bond's enemies usually had ties to a Soviet group called SMERSH, which got its name by combining the words Smiert Spionom. The early films replaced SMERSH with SPECTRE, now SMERSH finally gets a reference of sorts in this movie.
Koskov worries that once the assassinations begin, they could lead to the Soviet and Western powers destroying each other and maybe even build to nuclear war. He suggests that Pushkin should be assassinated himself. "Put away." The perfect time to do it will be when Pushkin goes to Tangiers, ostensibly for the North African trade convention but really to do something concerning his new directive.
Koskov's information bombshell brings the debriefing to a close, as M and Sir Frederick now need to "consult with higher authority." Bond goes along with the men, leaving Koskov at the safehouse with his security guards. As soon as our hero is gone, the safehouse proves to be not-so-safe. A hitman called Necros infiltrates the grounds by taking the place of the milkman, having strangled the real milkman to death with his headphones, through which he listens to The Pretenders' "Where Has Every Body Gone?" on a loop.
Necros enters the house through the kitchen, where there's a cameo by a cast member from For Your Eyes Only - the chef has a pet parrot, and it's played by the same bird who was the Havelock family's parrot Max in FYEO. Necros easily dispatches the chef with his headphone garrote, but he's caught in the act by an agent in the guise of a butler. A brutal, intense scuffle ensues between Necros and the butler, which has caused some fans to complain that the best fight in the film doesn't even involve James Bond.
Necros wasn't able to bring a gun onto the property with him because there are metal detectors around. That rake outside the front door? Actually a metal detector. He arms himself with the butler agent's gun after their fight, but in confrontations chooses to use the weapons he was able to sneak in: explosive milk bottles. Necros proves to be quite crafty and capable, pretending to be one of the security officers and communicating with the outside guards via radio while blowing up rooms in the house with his milk bombs (he tells those outside that the explosions are caused by a gas leak) and killing or incapacitating every security guard that tries to stop him. He captures Koskov and they're picked up by a Medevac helicopter, which never does reach a hospital.
M and Sir Frederick are, as you might expect, very unhappy that Koskov has been captured from their safehouse by the KGB just hours after his defection. Bond questions how trustworthy Koskov was in the first place, the Smiert Spionom story sounds far-fetched to him. He and M are both acquainted with Pushkin and it doesn't add up. M shows Bond evidence that appears to support Koskov's story - a piece of paper found with 004's body in Gibraltar. Written on it is "Smiert Spionom". M believes they have to assume that Koskov's story is true and take action before Pushkin can take his new directive too far. A termination warrant has been issued for Pushkin, he will be killed in two days during his visit to Tangiers. To M's annoyance, Bond is reluctant to take the job. If 007 won't do it, M will assign 008 to do it and give Bond a fortnight's leave. Though not convinced that Pushkin has gone bad, Bond takes the assignment. If it has to be done, he'd rather be the one who does it.
Last seen in a quick cameo in Diamonds Are Forever, having missed the entire Roger Moore era, Aston Martin makes its return to the Bond series in this film. He drives a 1985 V8 Vantage convertible to the safehouse, and after receiving Pushkin's termination warrant he goes down to Q's lab to pick up the car, which has been winterized and affixed with a hard top, something the Vantage never had in reality.
Q also gives Bond a set of keys that open 90% of the world's locks, on a key-ring with a finder that, when activated with the press of a button, can cause some damage depending on what tune Bond whistles. If he whistles the first bars of "Rule, Britannia", the key-ring finder sprays out a stun gas with a range of five feet. The finder is also magnetic and packed with explosive. Bond could attach it to something, give a wolf whistle, and it will explode with a blast strong enough to remove the door of any safe.
Meanwhile, Moneypenny has dug up information on the mysterious female sniper. She is Kara Milovy, a scholarship cellist, and will be performing at the conservatory the following day. Bond requests that Moneypenny get him travel documents for Tangiers, with a route that will take him back through Bratislava.
Returning to the Bratislava conservatory, Bond watches Kara's cello performance, then follows her. He witnesses her being caught by a couple men and led to a car, where General Pushkin is waiting in the backseat. As Pushkin and his men drive Kara away, Bond takes the cello case that she has left behind. He takes the case into a public restroom to check it out, passing a diminutive janitor on his way, possibly a callback to the Goldfinger theme-whistling little person in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. There's a card with Kara's name and address written on it inside the case, but her cello isn't in there. Her damaged sniper rifle is, and it's loaded with blanks.
Bond dumps the rifle in a river and meets with Kara when she returns to her apartment, which has been ransacked by the KGB. Among her possessions is a picture of Georgi Koskov. Bond earns Kara's trust by convincing her that he's a friend of Koskov's, pretending that he knows where he is and what his plan was for his defection. Bond is figuring that Koskov's defection was fake all along, but Kara seems to believe that Koskov is still with the British. He had promised her that he'd send for her, and Bond must be Koskov's way of getting her brought to him. Bond suggests that they might be able to meet up with Koskov in Vienna and tells Kara they have to leave immediately.
The KGB released Kara so they could follow her. Bond manages to sneak her away from her apartment building and past the man watching the place, but she complicates their perfect escape by demanding that Bond take her to the conservatory so she can pick up her cello.
The cello retrieval delays them long enough that the police are already on the lookout for a foreign car containing a man, a woman, and a cello before they can reach the border. The police catch up with them, the border guards join the action, roadblocks are set up, and a snowy, icy vehicular chase ensues. The authorities don't mess around, they fire machine guns and rockets at the Aston Martin, they even bring a tank into the situation. Luckily, Q has done more than a simple winterizing job, it's also packed the Aston Martin with some "optional extras": a lazer scythe that can cut a car's body off of its chassis, missile launchers with a targeting display on the windshield, tire spikes and outriggers for driving on ice, and a rocket booster.
Despite its extras, the Aston Martin does end up out of commission and stuck in the deep snow of a steep hill, so Bond presses a Self Destruct button as he and Kara abandon it. With heavily armed guards still pursuing them down the hill on skis and in a Ratrac, Bond and Kara sit in her cello case and use it as a sled, which they ride right across the border into Austria. This is the first bit of ski action in the series to not be shot by Willy Bogner, who I assume was too busy with the release of his own film Fire and Ice at the time.
In Tangiers, Pushkin goes to the mansion of an American man named Brad Whitaker which is, unbeknownst to either of them, under surveillance by someone. Whitaker is a very unpleasant man, obsessed with war. His front hall is lined with wax figures of himself made up to look like men he considers "great commanders" of the past; Napoleon, Hitler, Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun, etc. He replays famous battles with toy soldiers, sometimes changing the strategies and outcomes. He enjoys stories of countries being conquered and occupied. He thinks the higher the amount of casualties in a battle, the better. Despite his passion for the military, he didn't do so well in it himself, getting expelled from West Point for cheating. He has worked as a mercenary, now he's an arms dealer.
An arms deal is what has brought Pushkin to Whitaker's home. Pushkin cancels an order and wants the $50 million deposit back. Through Koskov, Whitaker has supplied the weapons for many wars, and Pushkin believes that Whitaker is involved with whatever Koskov is scheming now. Pushkin is cutting ties, and if Whitaker doesn't return his money in two days, he and Koskov will be put out of business permanently. Whatever they were planning, Pushkin demands they put an end to it.
This meeting unnerves Whitaker. He calls Koskov and Necros away from their good times hanging around his swimming pool with a bevy of beautiful women and updates them on the Pushkin situation. Koskov isn't worried, he's manipulated it so that Pushkin will be assassinated by James Bond any time now. Pushkin's death isn't happening quick enough for Whitaker, he wants Necros to go ahead and do it, they have to make sure that Pushkin doesn't live past the trade convention. Necros declines, he's worked with the Russians before and can't risk being recognized. Koskov suggests "an additional inducement", the elimination of another agent, will move forward Pushkin's death at the hands of the British.
Bond gets to know Kara better as they spend a day together in Vienna. Kara says she owes Koskov everything, from her scholarship to her Stradivarius cello, the famous Lady Rose, purchased by Koskov in New York. Kara dreams of someday going there to play Carnegie Hall. They're set up in a nice hotel, in a room with two bedrooms. Bond's not trying to sleep with this girl. He has housekeeping send up some vodka martinis, "Shaken, not stirred." He orders two tickets to the opera and buys Kara a nice, expensive outfit, which she wears that night.
Saunders meets up with Bond in private at the opera, where Michael G. Wilson makes his cameo in the audience. Bond explains that Koskov's defection was fake and he doesn't think it was the KGB who took him from the safehouse. Kara is not a sniper, she's Koskov's girlfriend, and he's posing as a friend to get information from her. Bond wants Saunders to find out how Koskov could afford the Stradivarius and get Kara papers so he can take her out of the country. Another meeting is arranged for midnight, near the ferris wheel.
And so Bond and Kara's day in Vienna ends at the Prater amusement park, where Bond wins her prizes and they ride the rides. Much fun is had, a moment on a rollercoaster is the happiest Timothy Dalton's Bond ever looks in either of his movies. The last ride they get on is the world famous ferris wheel, which was popularly featured in the 1949 noir film The Third Man. While on the wheel, Bond and Kara's interaction becomes less innocent. They've grown close over the two days in each other's company, and Kara admits that she can't stop thinking what it would be like for them to be together. Bond tells her, "Don't think, just let it happen." They kiss. For quite a while.
After they get off the ferris wheel, Bond has Kara wait outside as he goes into a cafe for his meeting with Saunders. Saunders gives him a passport for Kara and tells him that the Lady Rose cello was recently on auction in New York, where it was sold to Brad Whitaker. The arms dealer. Koskov and Whitaker, working together.
The time that Bond and Kara spent on the wheel gave Necros, still listening to "Where Has Every Body Gone?" on his headphones, more opportunity to arrange the death of Saunders. His tape player doubles as a detonator, with a bomb set up in the hydraulics of the cafe's automatic door. As Saunders starts to exit the cafe, Necros sets off the bomb, and Saunders is crushed to death by the door. Just when Bond had started to like the guy. A balloon drifts by with "Smiert Spionam" written on it. The angered Bond grabs the balloon and pops it in his hands.
Kara asks Bond if he has heard anything from Koskov, to which he replies, "Yes. I got the message." He tells her that Koskov is with Brad Whitaker in Tangiers. Kara knows of Brad Whitaker, but only as a patron of the arts, she was told he would help her.
Rather than follow his orders to assassinate Pushkin outright, Bond confronts him in his hotel room in Tangiers. In addition to being promoted into the position vacated by General Gogol, Pushkin also seems to have inherited Gogol's secretary/mistress as his own secretary/mistress, since she's in his room, scantily clad, and he brings her flowers. The spelling of the character's name in the end credits was always changing throughout her appearances in the films; Rubelvitch, Rublevich, now Rubavitch. She had previously been portrayed by Eva Reuber-Staier, here she's played by Virginia Hey. At one point, Bond rips off Rubavitch's clothes to distract Pushkin's bodyguard so he can get the drop on him and the audience is privy to a scandalous amount of Virginia Hey sideboob.
Pushkin tells Bond that Smiert Spionam was a Beria operation that was active in Stalin's time but shut down twenty years ago. It has not been reactivated, the KGB had nothing to do with the murders of 004 or Saunders. Koskov disappeared two weeks ago, just when he was about to be arrested for misusing state funds. Presumably for deals with Whitaker.
Bond tells Pushkin that Koskov wants him dead and they won't know what he's up to as long as he's still alive. Pushkin realizes what has to happen. "Then I must die."
And so Bond kills General Pushkin, in public at the trade convention, in front of a large group of witnesses that includes Necros, who was prepared to kill Pushkin himself if Bond didn't go through with it. Bond fires several shots into Pushkin as he takes the stage to address the crowd, then escapes from the building.
Pushkin's corpse is wheeled into a back room before he reveals to a distraught Rubavitch that it was all for show, he's actually alive and unharmed. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, Bond's bullets only punctured packs of fake blood that he had between his shirt and the vest.
While he's walking away from the building, a red convertible pulls up beside Bond with two young women in it. They ask him, "You looking for a party?" He's looking for a way to get out of range of the police searching for him, so he takes the ride. When they've gone a certain distance he asks to be let out, but the woman in the backseat pulls a gun on him.
The women take Bond to a boat docked in the bay, the boat of whoever has Whitaker under surveillance... That person turns out to be Bond's old pal from the CIA, Felix Leiter, showing up in a film for the first time since Live and Let Die (not counting Never Say Never Again.) This time around, Leiter is played by John Terry, who would go on to play Christian Shephard in the beloved around this blog TV show Lost.
Leiter questions if Bond is trying to start World War III, but Bond promises that Pushkin will be making a miraculous recovery. Leiter is on the same case as Bond, but has been working it from the opposite end, investigating the Whitaker side of things. He still hasn't figured out what Whitaker is up to, he has samples of hi-tech weaponry but hasn't put in any big orders yet.
Meanwhile, the baddies are celebrating the news of Pushkin's assassination. They're now free to move ahead on whatever they have planned, and that involves having someone from Amsterdam send them a shipment of diamonds.
In their luxurious suite that night, Kara shakes Bond up a martini and they talk. Bond confesses that he's not a friend of Koskov's, he's a British agent and is searching for the man who has betrayed everyone; the Russians, the British, and Kara. Koskov wanted Kara to be killed when he set her up as the sniper, she knows too much about him. Kara doesn't believe Bond. She called Whitaker's place while he was out, she talked to Koskov. She was told that Bond is a KGB agent, using her to find Koskov so he can kill him. So she has spiked his drink with chloral hydrate.
As Bond passes out, he tells Kara that he was the man who shot the rifle out of her hands instead of killing her. Then Koskov and Necros enter the room, with Koskov congratulating Kara on how she handled the situation.
Koskov and Necros could kill Bond while he's unconscious. They could just leave him there, since he's still clueless as to what their plans are. Instead, they take him with them and use him as part of their exit from the country. Driving an ambulance to the airport, Koskov and Necros play the part of a surgeon and an orderly, Kara is the nurse, and Bond is their gravely ill patient. In a case packed with ice they have a heart ready for transplant. The ambulance pulls into the cargo hold of a large plane and is flown out of Tangiers.
When Bond awakes on the plane, Kara trusts him again and believes him about Koskov. She helps him get a look inside the transplant case and he recognizes that the heart is not human, it's an animal's heart, and there are diamonds hidden among the ice.
Koskov is quite pleased with himself and doesn't have any idea that his plan to have Pushkin killed fell apart. He tells Bond that he's going to turn him over to the proper Russian authorities to be prosecuted for the murder of General Pushkin. He even throws another lie into the mix and says that this whole time he was on a secret mission for Pushkin to disinform British Intelligence. Even though Koskov likes Bond, he has to make sure that he pays for his crime. The Russians have an old saying, "Duty has no sweethearts." Bond replies, "We have an old saying too, Georgi. And you're full of it."
The plane lands at a Russian air base in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Army and the country's Marxist-Leninist government were in a war with the Afghan Mujahideen at the time of this film. It's a surprising, unusual move for the filmmakers to put James Bond into the middle of a real world conflict, they had previously avoided things like this.
As soon as the passengers exit the plane, Bond is taken into the custody of the base police for Pushkin's assassination. Koskov also has Kara arrested as a defector, promising that he'll be compassionate and try to have her assigned to the Siberian Philharmonic Orchestra. While Bond and Kara are taken away to the holding cells, Koskov informs the Colonel who runs the base that he's there on a secret state mission.
The jailer is an annoying and abusive jackass, and as he and two officers roughly move Bond and Kara toward their cells, Bond manages to activate his key-ring finder. The stun gas that bursts out when Bond whistles "Rule, Britannia" gives him and Kara an edge in the fight that follows. The jailer and officers end up unconscious and Bond and Kara are quickly able to escape. On their way out, they toss the cell keys to the only other prisoner there, an Afghan man who was arrested for a theft he insists he didn't commit.
Bond and Kara sneak out of the base, and just outside the fence they are met by Afghan resistance fighters, who accept them into their group when the man they freed vouches for them. The group rides off through the desert on horseback, eventually reaching the place they're based out of. There, their fellow prisoner reveals himself to be Kamran Shah, former Oxford student, now a Deputy Commander in the Mujahideen. He had been caught reconnoitering the air base, but his captors didn't know who he really was.
Bond tells Shah that he works for the British government and has uncovered a plot by Koskov to purchase hi-tech weapons that could be used against the Mujahideen. Shah says that Bond needs to talk to their Commander in the Khyber Pass, but Bond says that would take too long. They don't have days, Bond needs to get back to the air base before Koskov leaves. Shah and Kara aren't keen on that idea, and Shah can't spare the men or horses that Bond would need to do it. He invites Bond to join him and his men on a mission the following morning.
Bond and Kara spend the night together. In the same bed this time.
The mission that Shah takes Bond and Kara on the next morning is actually a drug deal. Shah is working with a group called the Snow Leopards, whose Chief is the biggest opium dealer in the area. The Snow Leopards are selling raw opium, an amount worth half a billion dollars on the streets of New York, to Koskov in exchange for the diamonds that he brought in the transplant case. Shah and his men will then use the money earned from the Russian's diamonds to buy weapons to fight the Russians with.
Bond finally figures out what Koskov is up to. Koskov arranged for the Russians to purchase hi-tech weapons, then used the down payment given to Whitaker to buy diamonds instead, trades those for opium, can make a huge profit on the opium deal within days, and then still use some of the money to order the weapons for the Russians. Pushkin had to be eliminated because he was watching bank accounts too closely. Basically, Koskov is misusing state funds to make his own drug money on the side.
It's a plot that takes some inspiration from Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale, and Bond plans to do the same to Koskov as he does to the villain in that novel - make sure he loses the money instead of gaining any, getting him in deep trouble. In this case, the plan is to plant a bomb in the opium.
Carrying some plastic explosives and a timer, he climbs into a truckload of opium, which is packed into burlap sacks with red crosses on the sides, but the truck drives back to the air base before he can get out. The opium, Bond's bomb among it, is loaded onto the plane that Koskov and company flew in on. Bond sets the timer for 10 minutes and 29 seconds and lets it start counting down.
With Bond now trapped on the air base, Kara convinces Shah and his men to raid the place to rescue him, kicking off a huge climactic action sequence full of gunfire, explosions, and property damage.
A stuntman fell off a horse and was injured during the filming of this sequence, lacerating his radial artery. The set medic had to do emergency surgery and recruited as his nurse Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli's daughter Barbara, who was promoted from assistant director on previous films to Associate Producer on this one.
Plans change, the action escalates and goes aerial, leading to stuntmen BJ Worth (Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill) and Jake Lombard (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy) doing some high altitude stand-in work as Bond and Necros. As the sequence reaches its end, there is some fantastic miniature work on display, crafted by visual effects artist John Richardson and his crew.
Despite how big the sequence is, Bond's work doesn't end in Afghanistan. He has to follow Koskov back to Tangiers to make sure he's brought to justice and deal with Whitaker in a confrontation that includes the war-loving baddie delivering his own twist on a popular line from Dr. No. "You've had your eight, now I'll have my eighty."
Kara is set to go on a world tour with an orchestra headed by composer John Barry, a cameo by the man who's done the music for most of the Bond films to date. This was the twelfth and final time John Barry worked on a Bond film, so it's nice that he closes out his 007 days with a cameo.
Kara is able to go on tour because General Gogol has arranged an immigration visa for her. She can travel however she wants. Gogol's post-show cameo is the final appearance in a Bond film for the character and the man who played him, Walter Gotell. There's a continuity error concerning him in the end credits, where the character name is listed as General Anatol Gogol. But when he and M were calling each other by their first names in The Spy Who Loved Me, he was called Alexis... Due to this, several websites refer to him as General Anatol Alexis Gogol.
M, Gogol, Shah, they're all at the performance, but Kara's told that Bond couldn't make it, he's on assignment abroad. Disappointed, she goes back to her dressing room... where Bond is waiting for her. A happy ending achieved, the end credits roll, accompanied by the second song The Pretenders did for the film, "If There Was a Man."
The Living Daylights is the earliest example I had of what a James Bond movie was. I would hear about this legendary series throughout my childhood and I wanted to see what these movies were like. Between 1988 and 1995, TLD was the only one we had a copy of, recorded onto a VHS from a cable movie channel, HBO or Cinemax, so whenever I was in the mood to give Bond a try, it was the Bond movie I watched. It didn't really spark my fandom, but it was good enough that it also didn't dampen my interest in the rest of the series. I was familiar with TLD when the clips of the other movies that were included in TV retrospectives building up to the release of GoldenEye looked cool enough that I ordered the whole series in 1995.
I enjoy the movie more now that I'm a full-fledged Bond fan than I did when watching it in the early '90s, but my feelings about it are similar. It's not one of my favorite entries in the series, it's not one that I can talk passionately about, but it's not bad at all. It's a good Bond movie, certainly a big step up from the last couple. Koskov's plans seem overly complicated, I'm not even sure that I'm clear on every step, but it makes for an interesting spy thriller that takes unexpected turns, starting low-key and getting bigger as it goes along.
Timothy Dalton makes a great debut as Bond. His approach was to try to take Bond back to Fleming. He studied the novels, he wanted to play the character as Fleming wrote him, a tarnished and vulnerable human being. The script and the tone of the film do allow him to do that, but it's sort of a shaky balance at times, with Dalton's serious spy thriller style sometimes contrasting against the inclusion of some of the cinematic formula elements. Dalton's Bond works best in scenes like the sniper set-up and tense confrontations, he's less the type of Bond to make quips and use gadgets, he seems uncomfortable with lighthearted moments. The goofy humor of the Moore era has been removed for the most part, but there are still a couple sillier-than-Dalton things left over in there.
It took me a while for my opinion to come around on Dalton, because in the early days of my fandom I didn't think he had enough charisma to be playing the cinematic Bond. I came to like him more after I had read Fleming's novels. Now I think he had a really good handle on the character, the movies and audiences just might not have been quite prepared for it.
Dalton is a jarring shift after twelve years and seven films of Roger Moore. The goofy, lighthearted style of Moore had been what audiences expected from James Bond for half of the series at this point. Some viewers couldn't make the adjustment. Dalton also got a raw deal in the press. It seemed like Pierce Brosnan was the Bond heir apparent in the eyes of the public throughout the '80s, and when he didn't end up on the screen in the movie after Moore, there was a backlash against Dalton. Who was ths guy? Just a temporarily fill-in until Brosnan could step into the role that he deserved, as far as some were concerned. Since Remington Steele was cancelled again after just six more episodes had been shot, some members of the press even thought that Dalton would be a one timer and Brosnan would be Bond in 1989.
The Moore era went on way too long for my taste, so I often dream up "what if?" scenarios about a different actor taking over as Bond starting in For Your Eyes Only. It might have gone better for Dalton (and the series, in my eyes) if he had started with FYEO.
Dalton had a strong supporting cast to work with in The Living Daylights. Jeroen Krabbé's Koskov is a despicable, cocky sleazeball. His henchman Necros is well played by Andreas Wisniewski, who would provide Bruce Willis with a much-appreciated machine gun in the following year's Die Hard. Koskov's cohort Brad Whitaker is played by Joe Don Baker, and even though things don't turn out well for Whitaker, this isn't Baker's last turn in a Bond film. John Rhys-Davies plays General Pushkin, and it's nice to have him in the series.
The film has a good romantic angle with Bond and Kara gradually falling for each other, instead of having him instantly seduce her. Maryam d'Abo gives an endearing performance as Kara, I really like her in the role and I like the character.
There are many familiar names behind-the-scenes, with most of the same main crew continuing to stay on the films through the '80s. Director John Glen returns for his fourth film, making him the only Bond director to make four in a row, and matching Guy Hamilton's record of four overall. Cinematographer Alan Hume was unavailable when TLD went into production, so Alec Mills, who had been a camera operator on five of the previous films, was promoted into the job. Peter Davies and John Grover, two men with several previous Bond credits, were the editors. Peter Lamont was again production designer, Arthur Wooster again second unit director, and as mentioned, John Barry returned to do his last Bond score.
With the exception of John Barry and Peter Davies, all of those crew members would be back for the next film, as would Timothy Dalton as James Bond. Now that his more serious and intense approach had been established, his second film would allow him to take it even further.