I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but, aside from Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton is my 2nd favorite Bond. Also, he comes the closest to capturing the literary character penned in the Ian Fleming novels written before the Connery movies changed the entire dynamic forever.
This movie was Dalton’s first of two appearances in the role, and this was, in my opinion the more fun of the two movies. Take for instance a scene in which Bond must escape down a mountain on an improvised sled made out of a Cello Case fleeing machine gun toting baddies. That’s the kind of outrageous mayhem I expect from my James Bond movies. Not quite so comical as Roger Moore in a clown suit, which was a step beyond my palette, but basically James Bond should be like a far less nerdy version of MacGyver, who also happens to be an alcoholic womanizer with deep brooding issues.
This movie is loosely based on one of the obscure short stories written by Ian Fleming (they were really about out of books at this point, not counting the non Fleming ones) in which Bond is assigned to help facilitate the defection of a Russian General, right near the end of the Cold War. During all this he happens across a conspiracy linking a crooked American weapons dealer, the old Soviet war in Afghanistan, as well as a plan to traffic a 500 million dollars worth of opium, which leads to a great climax aboard an airplane full of dope. This allows Bond to hop from various great locations such as London, Prague, as well as epic deserts and high mountain tops. It is exactly the way a Bond movie should look.
The lead Bond Girl this time out is Kara (Maryam d’Abo), the Russian cellist, who begins the movie trying to kill the aforementioned Russian General, but is eventually calmed down by Bond’s charms. Kara unfortunately is a very flat (not a physical criticism, but personality wise) and uninspiring Bond girl who just kind of mixes in with the scenery. The only thing you will remember about her in a week after seeing the movie is her cello case.
Also kind of a letdown in this movie is the main villain, Joe Don Baker who plays the arms dealer Whitaker. He seems more like a helpless overgrown child still playing in the sand with his GI Joes than a real dastardly villain, but he does the trick in places. This is far from a perfect Bond film, but it gets a few important things right. First, it has a tremendous leading man in the Bond role, great scenery, an easy to follow (but still hair brained, of course) plot with great locations and many great stunts. The only things lacking are a truly memorable villain and a love interest worthy of the new Bond, but this movie is still good enough for a rainy day watch.
The Living Daylights gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.