John Glen does a litany of disservices to The Living Daylights, mostly due to his inability to direct actors–Timothy Dalton specifically–but also on a number of technical levels. Glen relies far too much on rear screen projection for banal driving shots. Some of the other technical aspects–the bland sets and terrible lighting of them–aren’t necessarily Glen’s fault, though they are his responsibility. His inability to direct Dalton hurts the film most of all. Dalton can’t deliver the Bond one liners and he has real problems with the Lothario aspects of the part, but when he’s doing different things, he’s fine. Towards the end, once the film centers on he and Maryam d’Abo, he gets really good.
D’Abo’s another particular part of Living Daylights. She’s not so much good–though she’s very appealing after a while–as she is perfect in the part of a naïve cellist. Part of her appeal might be the short end she gets from the Living Daylights plot. While I realize it’s a James Bond movie and deceiving the audience every three minutes, whether it’s a character’s allegiances or an action set piece (cliffhangers only work when you’ve got some time in between crisis and resolution, a week, four months, not five or six seconds). But. So d’Abo is more appealing because she’s getting run through the duplicity ringer, but she’s getting run through it by Dalton, who’s James Bond and isn’t James Bond supposed to be smart? The audience knows more than he does and it doesn’t help Dalton at all, since he’s already saddled with bad lines and bad direction. It’s like the filmmakers already gave him a vote of no confidence or something, though he’s far more personable and likable than first choice Pierce Brosnan ever was, which might have more to do with the Brosnan Bond movies but whatever. They shouldn’t have jinxed him.
The stunts are cool, especially having seen all CG-composite Bond movies. The locations are nice, but cutting from a crappy set to a good location–it almost looks like all the sets were the same sound stage used over and over, since Glen uses the same composition for all of them. John Barry’s score is good. The supporting cast ranges. Art Malik and Joe Don Baker are good. Jeroen Krabbé, who I was expecting to be great, was not.
At the end, Glen (or the second unit director) does a fantastic, explosion-heavy shootout at a Russian airbase and he does a good job of it. Compounded by the recent dramatic developments and Dalton and d’Abo’s chemistry, The Living Daylights really turns around at the end, which very few films do. And it has a silly ending, which rewards the involved audience member–maybe it should have been more concerned with immediate rewards throughout, but still. It’s nice to see films used to make that consideration, since so few do so anymore.
Directed by John Glen; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, based on a story by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by John Grover and Peter Davies; music by John Barry; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Wilson; released by United Artists.
Starring Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Maryam d’Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbé (Gen. Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker), John Rhys-Davies (Gen. Leonid Pushkin), Art Malik (Kamran Shah), Andreas Wisniewski (Necros), Thomas Wheatley (Saunders), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Robert Brown (M) and Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny).