Watch The Living Daylights (1987), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
The Living Daylights (1987)
James Bond is sent to investigate a KGB policy to kill all enemy spies and uncovers an arms deal that potentially has major global ramifications.
The Living Daylights is a 1987 British spy film, the fifteenth entry in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the first of two to star Timothy Dalton as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Directed by John Glen, the film’s title is taken from Ian Fleming’s short story “The Living Daylights”, the plot of which also forms the basis of the first act of the film.
It was the last film to use the title of an Ian Fleming story until the 2006 instalment Casino Royale. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli, his stepson Michael G. Wilson, and co-produced by his daughter, Barbara Broccoli. The Living Daylights grossed $191.2 million worldwide, and received mixed reviews from critics.
The Living Daylights (1987) Trailer
The Living Daylights (1987) Reviews
The story takes Bond from London to Prague, from mountains to deserts, from a chase down the slopes of Gibraltar to a fight that takes place while Bond and his enemy are hanging out of an airplane. The usual stuff.
One thing that isn’t usual in this movie is Bond’s sex life. No doubt because of the AIDS epidemic, Bond is not his usual promiscuous self, and he goes to bed with only one, or perhaps two, women in this whole film (it depends on whether you count the title sequence, where he parachutes onto the boat of a woman in a bikini). This sort of personal restraint is admirable, coming from Bond, but given his past sexual history surely it is the woman, not Bond, who is at risk.
The key female character is Kara (Maryam d’Abo), the Russian cellist, who gets involved in the plot with the Russian general, tries to work against Bond and eventually falls in love with him. As the only “Bond girl” in the movie, d’Abo has her assignment cut out for her, and unfortunately she’s not equal to it. She doesn’t have the charisma or the mystique to hold the screen with Bond (or Dalton) and is the least interesting love interest in any Bond film.
There’s another problem. The Bond films succeed or fail on the basis of their villains, and Joe Don Baker, as the arms-dealing Whitaker, is not one of the great Bond villains. He’s a kooky phony general who plays with toy soldiers and never seems truly diabolical. Without a great Bond girl, a great villain or a hero with a sense of humor, “The Living Daylights” belongs somewhere on the lower rungs of the Bond ladder. But there are some nice stunts.
The Living Daylights (1987) Credits
The Living Daylights (1987)
Jeroen Krabbe as Koskov
Art Malik as Kamran Shah
Maryam d’Abo as Kara
Joe Don Baker as Whitaker
Timothy Dalton as James Bond
John Rhys-Davies as Pushkin
- John Grover
- Peter Davies
- John Glen
- Michael S. Wilson
- Richard Maibaum
- Alec Mills
- Albert R. Broccoli
The Living Daylights (1987) Plot
James Bond is assigned to help KGB General Georgi Koskov defect, covering his escape from a concert hall in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. During the mission, Bond notices that a KGB sniper is a female cellist from the orchestra. Disobeying his orders to kill the sniper, he shoots the rifle from her hands, then uses the Trans-Siberian Pipeline to smuggle Koskov across the border to the West.
In his post-defection debriefing, Koskov informs MI6 that the KGB’s old policy of “Smiert Spionam”, meaning “Death to Spies”, has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. Koskov is later abducted from the safe-house and assumed to have been taken back to Moscow.
Bond is directed to track down Pushkin in Tangier and kill him, to forestall further killings of agents and escalation of tensions between the Soviet Union and the West. Bond agrees to carry out the mission when he learns that the assassin who killed 004 in Gibraltar (as depicted in the pre-title sequence) left a note bearing the same message, “Smiert Spionam”.
Bond returns to Bratislava to track down the cellist, Kara Milovy. He finds out that Koskov’s entire defection was staged, and that Kara is actually Koskov’s girlfriend. Bond convinces Kara that he is a friend of Koskov’s and persuades her to accompany him to Vienna, supposedly to be reunited with him.
They escape Bratislava while being pursued by the KGB, crossing over the border into Austria. Meanwhile, Pushkin meets with an arms dealer, Brad Whitaker, in Tangier, informing him that the KGB is cancelling an arms deal previously arranged between Koskov and Whitaker.
During his brief tryst with Milovy in Vienna, Bond visits the Prater to meet his MI6 ally, Saunders, who discovers a history of financial dealings between Koskov and Whitaker. As he leaves their meeting, Saunders is killed by Koskov’s henchman Necros, who again leaves the message “Smiert Spionam”.
Bond and Kara promptly leave for Tangier, where Bond confronts Pushkin, who disavows any knowledge of “Smiert Spionam” and reveals that Koskov is evading arrest for embezzlement of government funds. Bond and Pushkin then join forces, and Bond fakes Pushkin’s assassination, inducing Whitaker and Koskov to progress with their scheme. Meanwhile, Kara contacts Koskov, who tells her that Bond is actually a KGB agent, and convinces her to drug him so that he can be captured.
Koskov, Necros, Kara, and the captive Bond fly to a Soviet air base in Afghanistan, where Koskov betrays Kara and imprisons her, along with Bond. The pair escape, and in doing so, free a condemned prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen. Bond and Milovy discover that Koskov is using Soviet funds to buy a massive shipment of opium from the Mujahideen, intending to keep the profits with enough left over to supply the Soviets with their arms and buy Western arms from Whitaker.
With the Mujahideen’s help, Bond plants a bomb aboard the cargo plane carrying the opium, but is spotted and has no choice but to barricade himself in the plane. Meanwhile, the Mujahideen attack the air base on horseback and engage the Soviets in a gun battle. During the battle, Kara drives a jeep into the cargo hold of the plane as Bond takes off, and Necros also leaps aboard at the last second.
After a struggle, Bond throws Necros to his death and deactivates the bomb. Bond then notices Shah and his men being pursued by Soviet forces. He re-activates the bomb and drops it out of the plane and onto a bridge, blowing it up and helping Shah and his men escape the Soviets. The plane subsequently crashes, destroying the drugs, while Bond and Kara escape.
Bond returns to Tangier to kill Whitaker, infiltrating his estate with the help of his ally Felix Leiter, and Pushkin arrests Koskov, ordering him to be sent back to Moscow “in the diplomatic bag”.
Some time later, Kara is the solo cellist in a Vienna performance. Kamran Shah and his men jostle in during the intermission and are introduced to now-diplomat General Gogol (Pushkin’s predecessor at the KGB), and the Soviets. After her performance, Bond surprises Kara in her dressing room, and they embrace.
The Living Daylights (1987) Box office
The Living Daylights (1987) Critical Response
Rita Kempley, reviewing for The Washington Post, praised Dalton’s performance naming him:
The best Bond ever. He’s as classy as the trademark tuxedo, as sleek as the Aston Martin. Like Bond’s notorious martini, women who encounter his carved-granite good looks are shaken, not stirred.
Furthermore, she praised the film as “graciously paced, though overplotted, so some seat-shifting sets in about 30 minutes before the end.” Janet Maslin of The New York Times complimented Dalton’s performance feeling that he had “enough presence, the right debonair looks and the kind of energy that the Bond series has lately been lacking.”
While praising the supporting characters, she criticised the long runtime and noted the “direction, by John Glen, has the colorful but perfunctory style that goes with the territory, and it’s adequate if uninspired.” Roger Ebert of his Chicago Sun-Times gave The Living Daylights two stars out of four, criticising the lack of humour in the protagonist and feeling General Whitaker was:
not one of the great Bond villains. He’s a kooky phony general who plays with toy soldiers and never seems truly diabolical. Without a great Bond girl, a great villain or a hero with a sense of humor, The Living Daylights belongs somewhere on the lower rungs of the Bond ladder. But there are some nice stunts.
Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune also gave the film two stars out of four, commending Dalton as superior to his predecessor but feeling he “simply doesn’t have the manliness or the charm of Sean Connery.” He criticised the film for its perceived tentativeness writing that the “filmmakers were trying to strike a middle ground between the glamor of the Connery Bond films and the dubious humor of the Moore Bonds.
The result is a film that is not so much bad as mechanical and uptight.” Jay Scott of The Globe and Mail wrote of Dalton’s Bond that “you get the feeling that on his off nights, he might curl up with the Reader’s Digest and catch an episode of Moonlighting“.
Retrospective reviews of the film have been considerably more positive. The Independent placed the film as the fourth best Bond movie, praising the tough, nervy edge Dalton brought to the franchise. Dalton himself has said he preferred The Living Daylights over Licence to Kill. Dalton’s predecessor, Roger Moore, discussing the Bond series in 2012, called the film a “bloody good movie”. IGN lauded the film for bringing back realism and espionage to the film series, and showing James Bond’s dark side.
Les Roopanarine, in a retrospective review for The Guardian, called the film his favourite Bond film, praising Dalton for “bringing a more nuanced interpretation to the role, with his relationships evolving in a way never seen before in previous Bond films.”  In a poll involving Bond experts and fans of the franchise, The Living Daylights was ranked the sixth best bond film. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 74% based on 57 reviews and an average rating of 6.5/10.
The website’s critical consensus states, “Newcomer Timothy Dalton plays James Bond with more seriousness than preceding installments, and the result is exciting and colorful but occasionally humorless.” On Metacritic it has a score of 60% based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade “A” on scale of A to F.
The Living Daylights (1987) Accolades
The Living Daylights (1987) Movie Info
Watch The Living Daylights (1987)
The Living Daylights (1987) Pictures