It's easy to forget back in 1987 what a seismic change in the world of OO7 it was to go from the light comedy of Roger Moore to the serious, broodingly dangerous James Bond portrayed by Timothy Dalton in his debut, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS.
Dalton has always been a "love him or hate him" actor in the role he only played twice. I think he's a refreshing change after the geriatric antics of Moore in the middling "View To A Kill".
Dalton makes an action packed entrance as Bond in the pre-title sequence, chasing a bad guy all over the island of Gibraltar to great effect.
Soon Bond is off on one his more complicated plots involving a defecting Russian General, arms dealers, a SMERSH plot to kill the double O agents and an adventure with Afghanistan rebels.
Stuck in the middle of all these factions is Russian cellist Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d'Abo as an intelligent, if somewhat dull Bond girl.
Director John Glen, a veteran of the series as director since "For Your Eyes Only" two films before, brings a more serious tone to the film to match Dalton's interpretation and for the most part, it works well.
Oddly, the most ineffective parts of Dalton's performance are when he is asked to play it light or happy, which usually comes off as awkward.
When he's serious, he's a damn good Bond. Until Daniel Craig came along, I thought it was a strong, threatening take on the character. Post Craig and three decades later, it comes off softer.
* The Aston Martin car chase through and around snowy terrain, escaping Russian troops and tanks with plenty of gadgets and firepower.
* The stunt team and the opening free fall jump to Gibraltar, along with the fantastic closing airborne sequence with Bond and Necros battling on the back of and outside a massive airborne transport plane. The midair climax is one of the best Bond sequences of all time.
* John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) as General Pushkin. Humorous, strong and dangerous, its a great performance that plays well off Dalton.
* The Afghanistan sequences featuring Art Malik as Kamran Shah, with Bond and the rebels fighting the Russians.
* John Barry's music score throughout the film.
* Dalton himself. This was a HUGE step forward for Bond in the 80's and Dalton does a great job bringing danger and serious consequences back into the series after the lightness of Moore overwhelmed his earlier, better films.
* Joe Don Baker's goofy arms dealer Brad Whitaker and his army man display conclusion. A dumb idea poorly executed.
* The new Moneypenny, Caroline Bliss, completely devoid of personality. When she offers to lend Bond her Barry Manilow music collection, a little part of me died of boredom.
* aHa's title song and Maurice Binder's uninspired title sequence, one of the series weakest.
* John Terry (who?) as Felix Leiter. Dull and badly acted, its no wonder they brought back David Hedison as Leiter in the next film.
Overall, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS is a nice step back to quality to the Bond films in the history of the series and a solid OO7 adventure.
We'll give Dalton and the film a solid B+.
Followed two years later in 1989 by LICENSE TO KILL.