The Living Daylights

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

James Bond—Agent 007—is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov, covering his escape from a concert hall in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia during the orchestra’s intermission. During the mission, Bond notices that the KGB sniper assigned to prevent Koskov’s escape is a female cellist from the orchestra. Disobeying his orders to kill the sniper, he instead shoots the rifle from her hands, then uses the Trans-Siberian Pipeline to smuggle Koskov across the border into Austria and then on to Britain.

In his post-defection debriefing, Koskov informs MI6 that the KGB’s old policy of Smiert Spionom, meaning Death to Spies, has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. Koskov is later abducted from the safe-house and assumed to have been taken back to Moscow. Bond is directed to track down Pushkin in Tangier and kill him in order to forestall further killings of agents and escalation of tensions between the Soviet Union and the West. Although Bond’s prior knowledge of Pushkin initially leads him to doubt Koskov’s claims, he agrees to carry out the mission when he learns that the assassin who killed 004 (as depicted in the pre-title sequence) left a note bearing the same message, “Smiert Spionom.”

Bond returns to Bratislava to track down the cellist, Kara Milovy. He determines that Koskov’s entire defection was staged, and that Milovy is actually Koskov’s girlfriend. Bond convinces Milovy that he is a friend of Koskov’s and persuades her to accompany him to Vienna, supposedly to be reunited with him. Meanwhile, Pushkin meets with arms dealer Brad Whitaker in Tangier, informing him that the KGB is cancelling an arms deal previously arranged between Koskov and Whitaker.

During his brief tryst with Milovy in Vienna, Bond meets his MI6 ally, Saunders, who discovers a history of financial dealings between Koskov and Whitaker. As he leaves their meeting, Saunders is killed by Necros (Koskov and Whitaker’s henchman), who again leaves the message “Smiert Spionom.”

Bond and Milovy promptly leave for Tangier, where Bond confronts Pushkin. Pushkin disavows any knowledge of “Smiert Spionom”, and reveals that Koskov is evading arrest for embezzlement of government funds. Bond and Pushkin then join forces and Bond fakes Pushkin’s assassination, inducing Whitaker and Koskov to progress with their scheme. Meanwhile, Milovy contacts Koskov, who tells her that Bond is actually a KGB agent and convinces her to drug him so he can be captured.

Koskov, Necros, Milovy, and the captive Bond fly to a Soviet air base in Afghanistan—part of the Soviet war in Afghanistan—where Koskov betrays Milovy and imprisons her along with Bond. The pair escape and in doing so free a condemned prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen. Bond and Milovy discover that Koskov is using Soviet funds to buy a massive shipment of opium from the Mujahideen, intending to keep the profits with enough left over to supply the Soviets with their arms.

With the Mujahideen’s help, Bond plants a bomb aboard the cargo plane carrying the opium, but is spotted and has no choice but to barricade himself in the plane. Meanwhile the Mujahideen attack the air base on horseback and engage the Soviets in a gun battle. During the battle, Milovy drives a jeep into the back of the plane as Bond takes off, and Necros also leaps aboard at the last second. After a struggle, Bond throws Necros to his death and deactivates the bomb. Bond then notices Shah and his men being pursued by Soviet forces. He re-activates the bomb and drops it out of the plane and onto a bridge, blowing it up and helping Shah and his men gain an important victory over the Soviets. Bond returns to Tangier to kill Whitaker, as Pushkin arrests Koskov, sending him back to Moscow.

Some time later, Milovy is the lead cellist in a known London performance, her music career solidified by newfound cooperation between the British government and the Soviets providing Kara with travel expenses and allowing her to perform in both countries. After her performance, Bond surprises her in her dressing room and they romantically share their mutual success together.

REVIEW:

A new era in the James Bond franchise is upon me, as Roger Moore steps down and Timothy Dalton takes on the mantle of the suave superspy in The Living Daylights. Will this change affect the character? What about the tone of the film? How will this be received? Let’s find out!

What is this about?

In this turbo-charged action-adventure, suave superspy James Bond is tasked with protecting a Soviet general from a beautiful sniper.

What did I like?

Music makes the world go ’round. As a musician, I will always be more critical and notice things having to do with music than the common movie viewer. The Bond films are well-known for the opening themes and the unmistakable James Bond motif, but this film also throws in a bit of class. You can’t have a Bond girl who is a cello player without having her playing some Mozart, can you? I just can’t see a world-renown musician of her caliber playing some hair band hit on her instrument, even if it might have sounded cool.

Time for a change. Roger Moore was nearly 60 when A View to a Kill was finished, and it showed. The man gave us I believe 7 films over 12 years, so he earned his rest. With a new Bond comes new ways to write for the actor. Take for instance when David Tennant left Doctor Who and was replaced with Matt Smith, who has now been replaced with Peter Capaldi. All have different interpretations of the same character, but each is their own, separate entity. Timothy Dalton, who is going for a darker, more realistic Bond is a far cry from Roger Moore, but perhaps that is what’s needed.

Go go gadget. Bond is known for his gadgetry, but in the films that I’ve seen, they haven’t really been a big part of the film, save for submarine Lotus in The Spy Who Loved Me. While nothing as grand as that appears in this picture, we do get to see a few more of the gadgets and gizmos than I believe we have seen before, which is a big plus for me.

What didn’t I like?

Moneypenny. This is the first film in the franchise to feature a new actress as Ms. Moneypenny. I can’t really say that I like her or not, based on her performance, but I can say that I am not a fan of what they have done, or not done with her character. In the previous films, she had a flirtatious relationship with 007, but here everything is business. WTF?!?

Climax. In the supposed climax, a confrontation with Bond and Whitaker, one would expect there to have been some sort of long, exciting battle, complete with witty repartee and such, right? Wrong! What we get is a few shots, gas, a statue falling down, and some more shots. Seriously, how is this the climax? The stuff with opium was more exciting!!!

Ho-hum. I was warned that Timothy Dalton’s Bond films weren’t going to appeal to me, but I at least thought this would be interesting. I had to catch myself twice from falling asleep! Dalton just doesn’t do it for me as a Bond. I think he does his best work as a villain, anyway. Perhaps the next film will change my mind.

Final verdict on The Living Daylights? It is a definite departure from the Roger Moore era 007. We get a darker Bond, more realistic plot, and the return of the Aston Martin. Does this make this a good film? No, but it doesn’t hurt. What does hurt, though, is the fact that there is no real excitement in this picture. For a good chunk of it, things just seem to be going along with no rhyme or reason. How can the audience get invested in that? With that in mind, I cannot recommend this, unless you are a completest who must see all the films in the franchise.

3 out of 5 stars

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