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The Living Daylights(1987)
After James Bond (Agent 007) helps Russian officer Georgi Koskov make a daring defection to the West, the intelligence community is shocked when Koskov is abducted from his remote hiding place. Bond leaps into action, following a trail that leads to the gorgeous Kara, who plays Bond as easily as she plays her Stradivari cello. As they unravel a complex weapons scheme with global implications, they are forced into soaring chases, a dangerous jailbreak, and an epic battle in the Afghanistan desert with tanks, airplanes, and a legion of freedom fighters on horseback.
For more about The Living Daylights and the The Living Daylights Blu-ray release, see the The Living Daylights Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Art Malik
Director: John Glen
» See full cast & crew
The Living Daylights Blu-ray Review
Dalton's debut takes Bond in a more realistic direction.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 23, 2012
The gadgets. The guns. The girls. The exotic locales and sexy cars. The white-knuckle action sequences. The suave flirting and cheeky double entendres. He's been played by six actors—Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig—but there's only one Bond, James Bond. Every man wants to be him, and every woman wants to be with him. (Some men too, I'm sure.) He's the epitome of super-spy cool, and for fifty years now—fifty years!—he's been an indelible part of our pop-culture consciousness. In terms of universal recognition, Bond is right up there with Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader and Superman. Everyone knows his name, knows he likes his martinis "shaken, not stirred," and knows his favorite pistol is the compact Walther PPK. You're probably even humming or whistling the iconic 007 theme song to yourself right now, and if you aren't, I guarantee it'll worm its way into your brain sometime in the next five minutes. Instantly, more like. Admit it, it's playing on a loop in your head right now. Bond isn't just a franchise, it's a revered institution. Yes, there have been a few duds along the way, but over the span of twenty-three films—including the just- released Skyfall—the series has defined the international espionage sub-genre, all the while reflecting the cultural and political changes of its times. Sure, in one sense, these are just action movies—popcorn entertainments—but for their fans, these films are the height of cinematic escapism.
With the departure of a long-in-the-tooth Roger Moore after 1985's disappointing A View to a Kill, franchise producer "Cubby" Broccoli was forced yet again to find a new 007, initially considering Pierce Brosnan—who bowed out due to Remington Steele commitments—and then screen-testing future Jurassic Park star Sam Neill. Eventually, Broccoli settled on Timothy Dalton, a green-eyed Welsh actor with Shakespearean stage training, best known at the time for his roles in The Lion of Winter and Wuthering Heights. Dalton had originally tested to replace Sean Connery in 1968, but considered himself too young for the part, conceding the role to the only one-off Bond, George Lazenby. Obviously, he'd stuck in Cubby's brain, and the producer brought him back in twelve years later to star in The Living Daylights, a film that departs from the comic, over-the-top tone of the Moore movies and—like Daniel Craig's Casino Royale would do after the Pierce Brosnan pictures—takes the franchise in a more realistic, borderline believable direction.
The film's energetic pre-title sequence has Bond engaged in a training mission on Gibraltar, but the war games go deadly when a Russian assassin starts picking off 007's fellow agents. This is presumed to be an isolated incident, but we later learn that KGB commander General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) has re-enacted an old policy called Smert Spionam, a.k.a. "Death to Spies," which threatens to destabilize relations between Moscow and the West. Post-credits, Bond travels to Czechoslovakia to help defecting KGB officer Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) escape the country—a feat cleverly accomplished using a capsule sent rocketing through the Trans-Siberian pipeline—but after all these years, Bond should know better than to trust a Russkie spy.
Through a series of entertaining but superficially complicated plot turns—the always-formulaic series is historically good at these—Bond ends up pursuing Pushkin and the double-agent Koskov, who are both in and out of cahoots with the traitorous American arms dealer and wannabe general Brad Whitaker, played by a deliciously nutty Joe Don Baker. (Who would later return to the franchise as CIA agent Jack Wade in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.) Of course, it wouldn't be a Bond film without a Bond girl, and in the case of The Living Daylights, 007 takes a surprisingly chaste turn and only gets involved with one—Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), Koskov's cellist girlfriend, who aids our hero without knowing his true identity. They make a decent pairing, although the romantic elements—a makeout session on a ferris wheel, for instance—feel more obligatory than passionate.
Dalton sometimes gets a bum rap from Bond fans, but he's quite good here—suave without seeming self-obsessed, cool under fire, and far more capable than sluggish old Roger Moore when it comes to the role's physical requirements. His Bond is the closest forerunner to Daniel Craig's—they share a more serious bearing—and Daylights has a sense of relative real- world believability that wouldn't be matched again until Casino Royale. In its final act, the film sends 007 and his love interest to Afghanistan, where they ally themselves with a band of anti-Soviet mujahideen freedom fighters and join in an attack on a Russian airbase. It's a natural extension of the series' original Cold War undercurrent, and it makes for a thrilling climactic action sequence.
The Living Daylights Blu-ray, Video Quality
Like the other newly restored and remastered Bond films, The Living Daylights arrives on Blu-ray in fine form, sporting a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's an immediately appreciable upgrade from the now-ancient DVD. Clarity gets the most noticeable boost; closeups are sharper, facial features more refined, and clothing textures better delineated, from start to finish. Any softness that is here is probably source related—that is, it has been and always will be present. From the snowy Alps to the rusty Afghanistan desert, color is dense and richly—but not overly—saturated, and skin tones seem accurate. If there's one hiccup in this transfer, it's that black levels in several scenes are perhaps a bit too dark, occasionally crushing some shadow detail. Not a significant problem, though. This is a distraction-free encode that shows no sign of excessive noise reduction or edge enhancement. The naturally filmic-looking image has a fine layer of grain, and better still, the print itself is in impeccable condition. You'll spot only a few errant blink-and-you'll-miss-em white specks, and no obvious encode or compression problems
The Living Daylights Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Living Daylights shines on Blu-ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that does justice to the film's original sound design. Granted, this is far from the most immersive or engaging audio experience the series has to offer, but the mix is decently detailed and makes good use of the rear speakers when necessary. Explosions send debris spraying through the soundfield. Gunshots pop off from every direction. Koskov rockets down the pipeline. Some of the punches and other effects can sound a bit wimpy at times, but never offputtingly so. While the action sequences obviously benefit most from the multi-channel presentation, even the quieter scenes—like Bond and Kara's date at the carnival—usually feature some well-tuned ambience. The film has the last-ever Bond score by longtime composer John Barry, and by this time we can excuse him for phoning it in a bit; still, all of the music here has a good sense of presence—from the score to Kara's orchestra to the title track by A-ha. Dialogue cuts cleanly through the mix, with no muffling, crackling, or dropouts. The disc includes several dub and subtitle options; see above for details.
The Living Daylights Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
MI6 Commentary: A patchwork-but-informative track featuring director John Glen and members of the cast and crew.
Declassified: MI6 Vault
The Living Daylights Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I might be in the minority here, but I wish Timothy Dalton had had a few more goes as Bond. He helped give the series some self-respect after the increasingly goofy final Roger Moore films, and his cooler, serious demeanor was something of a trial run for the direction the franchise would later take with Daniel Craig. With 007 in the middle of a then-real world conflict—the Afghani mujahideen's battle against occupying Soviet forces—The Living Daylights feels more grounded and less campy than many of its predecessors. If a bit long, it's an entertaining adventure overall, and it makes a fine showing on Blu- ray, with a great new high definition transfer, a decently potent audio track, and a whole cargo hold's worth of special features. Note that, for the time being, the film is a timed Target exclusive, so look for it there. Recommended!
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