The Living Daylights: A Mission, Not a Fancy Dress Ball
by Hilko Röttgers (@incrdbl_Hilk)
“How on earth can you like The Living Daylights?”
Friends of mine tend to ask me this question, disbelief in their voice. “Seriously…?!” And more often than not, showing off supposed expertise, someone will add: “Isn’t that the one with that other Bond?” My friends may only be pretending to not know Timothy Dalton. But their disliking him as 007, unfortunately, seems to be genuine.
I have acquired a quarter century of experience defending Dalton’s 007 in general and – as I have named it my favourite Bond movie on several occasions – The Living Daylights in particular. Mostly, I try to be reasonable by simply stating: “The Living Daylights is a bloody good movie, and Dalton is an excellent Bond.” I can elaborate, of course, if you’ll lend me an ear.
First of all, The Living Daylights tells an intriguing spy story. There is General Koskov of the KGB, who supposedly wants to defect to the West, and 007 is assigned to bring him in. Koskov then reveals Operation Smiert Spionam, a secret Russian plot to kill Western agents. And soon after that he apparently gets re-captured by the KGB. Bond has his doubts, though, and decides to further investigate the matter. In the end it is finally revealed that arms dealer Brad Whittaker (Joe Don Baker) is behind it all.
In The Living Daylights, there is spying and scheming and betrayal and double-crossing and whatnot to an extent that’s somewhat unusual to a Bond movie. There’s a reason for that, of course, and I will come back to it later. At this point, let’s just agree that 007 is a secret agent; spying is what he’s expected to do. And in fact, I’m quite happy with it. Bond’s ally Saunders gets to say the line that describes what The Living Daylights is all about: “This is a mission, not a fancy dress ball!” As opposed to, let’s say, Moonraker, which was rather more a fancy dress ball than a mission. (more…)