“The Living Daylights” opens with a scene from a Bond short story, from which is developed an original story with logical ties to its opening. “License to Kill” boasts some characters and situations from Fleming’s books, but the result could be any police actioner from the eighties. The script would have been better serviced by Dirty Harry than James Bond. In any event, Timothy Dalton is good in both movies, but he is not James Bond.
Bond doesn’t kill out of anger or for revenge, but out of necessity. He is a cold professional, not a passionate vigilante. Dalton is just as amateurish in his lovemaking. A flirtation with Moneypenney early in “The Living Daylights” is played like a courtship scene from one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The one point of interest in “The Living Daylights” is that the Afghans, being at war with the dreaded Russians, are the good guys, and it is fascinating to see the difference between the physical aspects of the contemporary, “enemy,” Afghan, and the clean, well-coifed, and sparkle-eyed Afghan of 1987.
Dalton was through after these two movies, and it would be six years before Pierce Brosnan stepped into Dalton’s shoes. By this time, there were no story ideas left, so Michael France, who had done nothing except the vapid but successful “Cliffhanger,” cobbled together a mosaic of Bond iconography, through which Brosnan scampered about, gun in hand, introducing himself to the other characters as James Bond. Any other medium handsome actor who looked good in a penguin suit would have fit the bill just as well.
“Goldeneye” offered battles in dangerous moving vehicles, narrow escapes from crashing planes, exploding mountains, last second bomb defusings, cars speeding down mountain roads, Bond winning at baccarat in elegant casinos, postcard views of seaside tourist spots, fights in plush hotel rooms, the underground compounds of international villains, asexual computer hackers, boats, tanks, trains, unconventional helicopters, outer-space weaponry, unlikely alliances, explosions, fires, women in distress, digital wall maps, and access codes. Television director Martin Campbell took on the task of making sure all these images made it into the camera and were then organized into the false semblance of a story. All that was required of Brosnan was that he twist and turned through the carnage, mouthed some one liners, and kissed girls. He repeated this on three subsequent occasions and then the jig was up.
Next: We will take a break from James Bond to review some films currently in release