Review: The Living Daylights Ultimate Edition DVD
I have a bit of a sentimental attachment to The Living Daylights; it's the first of Timothy Dalton's films and I was excited to have a new Bond, despite Roger Moore being the one who introduced me to the character. I felt that Dalton could be my Bond, rather than the Bond I inherited, and I appreciated his approach as Moore's occasional smugness was starting to appear silly to me even as a young teenager. The teaser is still one of my favorites and is a perfect way to introduce Dalton to the audience: an exotic location, a murder, a serious chase without gadgets, and a quick punchline with a pretty lady.
This is the last of the cold war bonds and the 4th in a row for John Glen (the first time anybody's done more than 3 consecutive). The more serious tone works great; there's humor but it's around Bond, but usually not coming from Bond. There's a long-absent grittiness to some of the action, too, such as with the excellent kitchen fight. The audience is clued in to the bad guys' plan early on but Dalton's fine work carries us thru his discovery of it. The move to Afghanistan is unexpected and exciting but on the down side, it's a little embarassing today to see Bond joining up with some of the forerunners of the Taliban in the last reel.
There are some hammy villains in this film, but when you've got Joe Don Baker in your lineup you know you're in good shape. Jeroen Krabbe is great as the series' final "renegade Soviet" and Andreas Wisniewski does fine work that reminds one of Red Grant. The introduction of John Rhys-Davis is welcome and it's too bad he couldn't have shown up in more films. Maryam d'Abo doesn't quite pull her weight and we only get a cameo of Felix Leiter played by John Terry but the first new Moneypenny is well handled by Caroline Bliss. King of Bond composers John Barry shows up as a the orchestra conductor in the final scene, fitting as this was his final Bond score. The music isn't his best but is also special to me, as it was the first Bond sountrack I bought and wore out in my tape deck, with his Pretenders collaboration, Where Has Everybody Gone?, one of my favorites.
Bonus features for the DVD set include the title tune's music video by a-ha (what every 007 fan wanted) and a making-of said music video! There are some deleted scenes but it would be nice if it had some of the alternate takes I've read about, lots of bits where Dalton angrily spits out the jokes rather than forces a smile for them. It's also unfortunate that we don't get a commentary from Dalton but only a few archive interviews of him from the time of the film's release.