To the loyal readers of the Ill bomb you may ask the following question: what is blogalongbond and why has this sprung up from out of the blue? Blogalongbond is an exercise in blogging from the mind of the incredible suit, where a bunch of sad nerds on the internet, blog about one James Bond film a month in the run up to the anticipated release of Skyfall. This month is The Living Daylights and this is the Ill contribution.
The oo7 prologue begins with a ridiculous paintballing competition between the 00 agents and the SAS. However an assassin is deliberately sabotaging the process, by offing several members of the 00 team and the SAS. Leaving a calling card entitled Smiert Spionom aka SMERSH, a supposed soviet plan meaning death to spies. The film follows Bond’s attempt to get to the bottom of this plot that will take him to Czechoslovakia, Austria, Morocco and Afghanistan.
Bond and the attitudes to women
If you like sexism in Bond then you won’t have to wait long as it occurs just before the obvious Saul Bass inspired title sequence commences. The scene in question is as follows as a bikini clad women gets what she wants:
Lady on the boat/ Bond’s piece of meat:
(On the phone)
It’s all so boring here, Margot. There’s nothing but playboys and tennis pros. If only I can find a real man.
Bond lands on the canopy of her boat, after fleeing with parachute from a plunging car.
He takes phone from her
I need to use your phone; (to person on the phone) she’ll call you back
The traditional sexual objectifying of the women featured in the Bond franchise continues with this questionable actress with the dodgy accent.
(On the phone)
Exercise control, 007 here. I’ll report in an hour
Piece of meat
Won’t you join me? (with glass of champagne in hand)
Better make that two.
Thus the film establishes that women are easy to get for Bond and that he needs an hour minimum to satisfy his sexual needs all within the space of 7 minutes 14 seconds. Well into the movie, the casual bit of sexism is exercised further. Throughout the franchise James Bond has always been forceful with women; slapping them around, dragging them about telling them to not speak unless spoken to. This was most prominent with Connery’s Bond, who mostly got away with it because it was the 1960’s. Granted Dalton’s Bond has less of this, but 1 hour 8 minutes in, Rubavitch, the wife of General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys Davies) has a good claim for sexual assault against the British government. He violently strips away Rubavitch’s gown to distract Pushkin’s bodyguard as he comes through the hotel room.
Stereotyping was a major theme throughout the majority of Roger Moore’s stint as the oo agent, and John Glen the director of Daylights was implicit with this. So when an aggressive overweight eastern bloc lady aids Bond by distracting her superior with sex, we kind of know who to lay the blame on here. Apart from the beginning, Dalton’s Bond is less of a sexual predator and treats his leading lady with more respect and care than Moore or Connery were ever capable of, even if she is a tad too timid and has bushy eyebrows. For example he is heard telling the hotel manager, very diplomatically that he will turn down his usual suite in favour of one with two bedrooms when checking in with Kara. This is a very decent and gentleman thing to do, which is a pleasant surprise as we know that James Bond is usually a lecherous plank. Still The Living Daylights deliberately fails the Bechdel test.
Bond franchise Clichés reinforced in The Living Daylights
Dalton’s Bond utters the famous line after eliminating an assassin and falling onto a yacht via parachute. Bikini girl with dodgy accent demands to know who the hell he is. Tired, he replies “Bond, James Bond” around 7 minutes in, but delivered so nonchalantly that we half expect this Bond is partial to skin up to light a fat spliff after all the hard work he has done.
The 007 look features very early on in the film (as in D.No) and is important to the film’s narrative. Bond is attending an orchestra to rendezvous with another member of MI5 so they can make out the target that they are going to smuggle into the west. Dalton fits into the tux like a glove, and it is unfortunate that he does not continue the rest of the film in this attire. Instead a big dressing down occurs when he is dressed in Afghani desert clothes
3. The Living Daylights in relation to its time.
The year is 1987 and the cold war is coming near to the end of its expiry date, before the Arabs would become movie enemy number one. For the moment the Russians are the bad guys, and defection from the east, Russian deceit and counter espionage are major themes of this film. At the time of Daylights release the Soviets still had a presence in Afghanistan, and much of the west were against their presence there (how ironic!), so the mujahedeen led by Brit Art Malick although shown as a tad barbaric (never invite them to an orchestra) are treated as sympathetic scallywags.
Also in November 1986 a scandal rocked the Reagan administration, it was called Iran-Contra affair and concerned Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the US National Security Council. In late ’85, North devised a plan to sell arms to Iran and use the proceeds from the sale to fund the anti-Sandinista and anti-Communist rebel group the Contras. The Contras were responsible for a series of human rights abuses and murders in their base in Honduras and in Nicaragua. In Daylights the character of Brad Whitaker offers a close comparison to Oliver North and the Iran-contra affair.
4. The gadgets/ the Aston Martin
A key ring that is detonated to release stun gas by whistling Rule Britannia or detonated as an explosive by a wolf whistle? This is a pretty lame gadget especially in relation to what Bond has had to work with before and is used appropriately as Bond is about to get thrown in a Soviet jail in Afghanistan.
As far as cars go, the welcome return of the Aston Martin adds a dose of traditionalism to Daylights after an 18 year separation within the Bond franchise. The 1986 V8 Vantage is put to good use in the first part of film as Bond and Kara try to escape the attention of the authorities. It comes with a signal- intercepting smart radio, side outriggers (for the ice and snow), spike producing tyres (for the snow) and a laser that slashes tyres (a modern update of the one used in Goldfinger).
Timothy Dalton’s Bond
The Living Daylights is the first outing of Timothy Dalton’s two film tenure as James Bond and is undoubtedly one of the best films to come out of the franchise. He had already turned down the role FOUR times, the first time after Sean Connery’s departure, claiming that he was too young for the role (24 years old).
Timothy Dalton’s Bond is a big departure from Roger Moore’s this-is-all-a-big-joke performance as the mi6 spy. The raised eyebrow gimmick implemented by Sean Connery but done OTT by Moore is gone. This is a very much a serious Bond or to put it better, a thinking man’s Bond. The remarkable thing that I noticed in Dalton’s performance is his stare. Those piercing, beautiful eyes give intensity to the moment in which they’ve been used and are an added bonus to his ability to seem suave and tough at the same time. Most important of all is that he has enough presence to carry the film and has brought something uniquely different to the tired out franchise. The irony of Sean Connery and the playfulness of Roger Moore is replaced with a more sombre, reflective acting style that is all the better for it. This is what you get when you hire someone that has trained at RADA and acted in Shakespeare.
This is why at this present time he stands as the best actor ever to play James Bond FACT.
The bad guys
As much as we all adored the evil machinations of people like Blofeld, Dr. No. Oddjob, Scaramanga his midget and his golden gun and their entire quest for world domination, the villains in Daylights add a dose of realism to the narrative. As aforementioned Brad Whitaker (played by character actor Joe Don Baker) is the American illegal arms dealer. His status of being a great nemesis is cemented within his first scene where he hides himself amidst the waxworks of historical “butchers” when General Leonid Pushkin pays him a visit. He believes himself to be a great soldier like Napoleon, but has never seen any combat and surrounds himself with military toys. He is childlike, but also the brains of the outfit playing Russia against Britain for financial gain and almost getting away with it.
Georgi Koskov is the weasel of the piece, looking and acting like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but really one slimy conniving bastard that identifies his girlfriend as a sniper so Bond could “take her out”. He creates a fake defection and fake kidnapping in order to fool Britain that Pushkin is behind a bogus revival of Smiert Spionom aka SMERSH. My favourite is Necros, the traditional Bond muscle of the piece who is as sinister as Oddjob and as scary as Red Grant in From Russia with Love. Played by Andreas Wisniewski who also played Karl’s brother Tony in Die Hard as the first one of Gruber’s henchmen to die at the hands of John McClane (with added Christmas message: Now I have a machine gun Ho! Ho! Ho!), he is a marvel to behold. The reasons why are as follows 1. He fools you by doing dodgy accents; he can do cockney or American. 2. Multi tasking: he poses as a milkman, doctor or balloon seller before or after murdering victims and 3. His deadly arsenal consists of conspicuous items such as headphones used to strangle victims, and grenade milk bottles chucked at members of the secret service, making Britain look like the “laughing stock of the intelligence community”.
The stunts and action set pieces.
There are at least 27 stunt team members involved in the film and they have creatively pulled up some amazing action set pieces. The most daring being the fight between Bond and Necros whilst dangling from a rickety plane with a bomb on board, which should win some sort of stunt award for the sheer madness of it. The Bratislava car chase scene with the Aston Martin was brilliantly staged, showing off Q’s implementation of the cars different gadgets; the culmination of it ending with Bond and Kara sliding down the slope on the case of Kara’s cello into the borders of Austria with “nothing to declare”. .
Personally the most imaginative and best action set piece occurs when Necros raids the safe house to “kidnap” Koskov. The intelligence of the raid, the milk bottle bombs and Necros’ prolonged fight with one brave waiter/agent makes sure the adrenaline levels go all the way to 11. On another note there is a scene where Bond is running from the Moroccan authorities on the rooftops of Tangiers, a scene strikingly familiar to a similar scene in The Bourne Ultimatum. Daylights small influence on Bourne should be recognised
Rotten Tomatoes Rating deserved?
Daylights has a 75 % rating amongst the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes and I would say that an extra 10% would have been fair. The faults of the film lay in the pacing, with the first half providing the thrills and from then on an endless string of crises to help to keep Bond dynamic. As there are few dramatic highs the films running time of two hours and ten minutes makes it a little too long. But there is much to admire from the film, Dalton’s portrayal being the primary one also as we have already mentioned the action set pieces are probably the best of any Bond movie. The supporting characters give a lot of weight to the film.,Welshman John Rhys-Davies playing Russian General Pushkin having already played an Arab in the Indiana Jones series, a Turk in King Solomon’s mines, Frenchman in Ivanhoe and a dwarf in Lord of the Rings, erm you get the picture; is excellant. Jeroen Krabbe excels as the unprincipled turncoat and Joe Don Baker makes for a worthy adversary. John Glen’s direction still carries some of the same elements as his Roger Moore films but is more mature in the more colourful aspects of Bond’s exploits. Seeing that I have waffled on long enough, i will wrap this up here: the film is a refreshing take at this point in the franchises chronology.