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BlogalongaBond: The Living Daylights
With the announcement that Roger Moore was leaving the series, many fans of the long running Bond film franchise were left to wonder what was next for the series. With over twelve years of comedic 007 adventures climaxing with the worst film in the series, opinions among many fans were for a return to the more serious films of the early Connery era. The hopes of fans were realized with this film that began a new era in the world of 007.

The change begins with the actor playing James Bond: Timothy Dalton. Dalton is perhaps the closest actor in terms of vision to Ian Fleming's idea of Bond. He certainly looks the part, with his scalp of wild black hair and his piercing blue eyes, and one can actually visualize him as a secret agent with his agile and strong form. Not only that, he also has the acting chops. Dalton's Shakespearean and stage training come into use perfectly here. Just look at where Bond is at the fair, having lost Saunders's murderer amongst the crowd and found the balloon with Smyert Spionam scrawled over them. The eyes say everything. Dalton relies more and more on his acting ability and not jokes and gadgets to pull the character through the film. Despite this being his first film as Bond, we get the feeling that he's been playing the part for years with his mastering of the character. Gone are the bad jokes of Moore and in is the seriousness and the occasional intelligent humor. This is how Bond should be: serious, intelligent, and with intelligent jokes. Dalton is also great in the action sequences and his belief that he should do as many of his stunts as possible makes it hard to determine when it’s him and when it’s a stuntman. Dalton can throw a good punch and, unlike Moore, looks like he knows what he's doing.

The change continues on with the Bond girl Kara Milovy. After the worst Bond girl of the series just one film earlier this girl is a 180-degree turn around. Maryam d'Abo may not have had a lot of acting experience before this but she is a good actress. Her character goes far beyond being just eye candy. She's realistic. She's an average woman who is drawn into this world on intrigue, action, and danger. Kara is an innocent brought into it all by a man she cares for deeply and whom she owes everything to. Bond isn't just a dominating figure who must seduce her as in From Russia With Love, he's the man who has brought her into the world where she is free to show off her talent for the entire world to see. She is also very beautiful and while she isn't the smartest Bond girl of them all, she does prove to be resourceful and unlike many of the Bond girls doesn't manage to just hang onto Bonds shoulder and scream for help. That and her gradual relationship with Bond provide one of the series few true love stories.

If the film has a fault in it, it would have to be the villains. While both Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker are great actors, this isn't their shining moment. Both of the characters of General Georgi Koskov and Brad Whitaker are too un-villain like to be bad guys. Any menace that Koskov might have had is ruined by the fact that he is constantly kissing everyone on the cheek. Brad Whitaker is also too weird to be a villain. He is in many respects the ultimate military historian and in another the craziest. At least unlike Koskov, he does have a great final showdown with Bond during the fantastic gun battle at the films end.

The supporting cast is also excellent. Andreas Wisniewski is great as Necros. He is menacing and despite being an obvious take on Red Grant, he manages to be original. John Rhys-Davies and Art Malik are fantastic as the allies of the film. Both actors are initially suspicious to us, but when they are revealed as allies they are the ones we want on Bond's side. Too bad we didn't see more of them. And let's not forget Thomas Wheatley as Saunders. He is the ultimate bureaucratic agent. But he can get the job done and he's so good that when he becomes the film's sacrificial lamb we feel for his loss. As for Caroline Bliss and John Terry it is hard to find good things to say. Both were replacements for well-known and beloved characters in the series and it wasn't going to be easy. Here they failed. Neither has enough screen time to establish them in the parts and when they are on screen they are lousy at best. We do have good performances from M, Q, and, for the last time, Gray and they help to add a sense of continuity to the film.

The film's storyline and action is top notch. After years of outrageous plots and action sequences, there is a heavy sense of realism. The plot is one of the series best. True it is very complicated and at time shard to follow, but so were some of Fleming's plots. But the complicated plot is a down side to what is otherwise a great Bond film.

The action sequences are among the best in the series. The film’s teaser featuring the training exercise and later chase on Gibraltar is the best since in a decade. The Aston Martin car chase is not only the best car chase since For Your Eyes Only but also the triumphant return of the classic Aston Martin. While the car has gadgets, they are at least believable and the chase features the classic scene of the police car being split in half and Bond and Kara escaping over the border in the cello case. Other great action scenes include the roof top chase in Morocco, the battle at the Afghan airbase, and the gun battle between Bond and Whitaker. But the films best action sequence is the cargo net fight at the film’s end. The excellent editing together of the aerial footage and footage shot in the studio puts together the best fight sequence since the beach fight in OHMSS. Despite the ton of action, the film’s plot never suffers and makes this perhaps the best-paced Bond film.

There is also the matter of John Barry’s score, which sadly turned out to be Barry’s final Bond score, also to be his best since Diamonds Are Forever. It is largely action based making excellent use of the main title theme song, the song “Where Has Everybody Gone?” and the James Bond Theme and taking a heavy synthesizer feel. That the score a feel of being both modern and yet a classic feeling. But perhaps the films best music is the romantic music used in the scenes between Bond and Kara. Based on the song “If There Was a Man” it is one of Barry’s best romantic pieces. There is also the suspenseful music used in the desert sequences that, while featuring the synthesizer feel of the action scenes, still feels in place and reminds the listener of Barry’s classic suspense music.

The films songs are a mixed bag. The main title theme, a musical collaboration between Barry and the rock group aHa, is a good main title song. It is heavily rock though and the lack of an orchestral feel hurts the song considerable and it pales in comparison to the main title song from A View To A Kill. The films other two songs, “Where Has Everybody Gone?” and “If There Was A Man”, while being great to listen to, feel out of place in a Bond movie.

Despite weak villains, a couple of questionable supporting players, a rather complicated plot, and a mixed song bag, this film delivers. With Timothy Dalton’s grand performance as Bond, Maryam d'Abo as Kara, a good overall supporting cast, great action scenes, and a great score, the series had brought a new Bond successfully to the screen. Indeed, it’s surprising to consider that the same creative team went from a series low to strength in a single film as this film wipes away the disaster of A View To A Kill and delivers a classic Bond adventure.