Dalton. Timothy Dalton. Why Timothy Dalton’s “The Living Daylights” is the Best Bond Film

I grow increasingly tired of people’s abject dislike of Timothy Dalton as James Bond. In his inaugural outing in The Living Daylights, I feel that Dalton was a breath of fresh air—and offered the world a close-to-perfect interpretation of Fleming’s flagship character.  Not to say that all opinions aren’t welcome. I am not overwhelmed by George Lazenby’s  007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet I don’t make disparaging remarks about his portrayal. I’m just bummed when OHMSS comes on during a Bond marathon. It’s like when you’re watching The Three Stooges for Curly—but you get Shemp…or Curly Joe.

Due to the fact that it was played on Showtime so often between 1988-98, The Living Daylights became my favorite film in the 007 oeuvre. Here’s why:

1. The a-ha title song
Norwegian ‘80s pop band a-ha, fresh off of the success of their smash hit Take On Me, deliver a synth- and-horn-fueled theme that gets you pumped up during the title sequence and lays the groundwork for musical cues peppered into John Barry’s orchestral score.

2. The Pretenders also contribute to the soundtrack
They have two tunes in the film,  the romantic interlude “If There Was a Man” and the rockin’ “Where Has Everybody Gone?”—which is underlaid to a pivotal breach in MI6 security by the baddies

3. It’s John Barry’s final 007 score
Aside from Monty Norman, who wrote the main Bond theme, John Barry is the composer/orchestrator who musically made Bond SOUND like Bond. Barry would also collaborate with the artists of the day who performed the title theme songs, to amalgamate the recognizable 007 horns and strings into their arrangements. TLD was the end of an era for the music of the franchise.

4. Dalton is the closest Bond to Ian Fleming’s written word
I am of the opinion that the less wise-crackey, more stoic and dry 007 from the books is best personified in Dalton’s interpretation of the character.  Bond in TLD just seems like a cold, calculating spy with a license to kill from Her Majesty’s government. When he does deliver the script’s quips, they’re done with a crisp sense of purpose—rather than a cartoony delivery for comedy’s sake found in the Moore-era films

5. Bond is once again rolling in an Aston Martin

aston-Martin

With a nod to the Goldfinger era, 007 is equipped with an Aston Martin—the V8 Volante. Per the vehicle’s Wikipedia entry:

At the beginning of the film, the car is a V8 Volante (convertible). The car used in these scenes was a Volante owned by Aston Martin Lagonda chairman, Victor Gauntlett. Later, the car is fitted with a hardtop (“winterised”) at Q Branch, and these scenes feature a pair of non-Vantage V8 saloons, fitted with the same number plate as the initial car, but with Vantage badges now fitted to match the previous Vantage.

The alterations and gadgets featured were:

  • Tire Spikes
  • Jet engine behind rear number plate
  • Retractable outriggers
  • Heat-seeking missiles behind fog lights
  • Lasers in front wheel hubcaps
  • Bulletproof windows
  • Fireproof body
  • Self-destruct system

I must admit that Daniel Craig is doing an excellent job of keeping the character fresh and interesting for the 2000s. Casino Royale and Skyfall are great espionage-related popcorn thrill rides. Quantum of Solace, conversely, is to be avoided at all costs.

Uncle Maffy

I work in branding...but I live in nostalgia. Lover of old video game systems, comic books and my lovely wife and two daughters. Not in that order, of course.

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11 thoughts on “Dalton. Timothy Dalton. Why Timothy Dalton’s “The Living Daylights” is the Best Bond Film

  1. thedevilbunny says:

    I have to disagree with you on this one, i’m afraid….but not flat out hate for what you’ve said. I really like Dalton…I agree he’s as close to the written Bond as there has been. I thought he did a fine acting job, and I had no problem with his two flicks. That said, I didn’t like Living Daylights all that much for acouple reasons.

    1. The A-HA Title Track – I honestly thought it was poor. I think A-HA was seen as an up and coming band and chosen on the strength of “Take on me”..but they didn’t do much after that, including this tune. It’s near the bottom of my “All Time Great Bond Songs” list.
    2. The opening scene – In my mind, there were at least 8 other double o’s out there, doing similar work to 007, and near equal in stature and ability. That thought was put to bed at the beginning of the movie when in the training missions 00’s are dropping like flies. I HATED this.
    3. Weak Villain – Hey, i’m no Joe-Don Baker hater…I LOVED him in..well..ok, I laugh at him a lot when MST3K is on, that’s about it. Weak bad guy for sure, with a poor climax.
    4. I’ll make this argument right here, this wasn’t even Dalton’s best Bond movie! That honor should go to “License To Kill”. In my opinion, THAT is a fine film. Better bad guy, better plot, Felix Lighter AND Wayne Newton! LTK is grittier…more like the books then ever before. This is a driven Bond, a pissed off Bond…plus you get Q in the field!

    Now, I consider myself a huge Bond fan, and that said, opinions are what they are…hell, my all time favorite Bond movie is “Man with the Golden Gun”, and that’s considered by many experts as one of the WORST Bond flicks. So take my counterpoints with a grain of salt.

  2. TheSixMillionDollarJedi says:

    I love a good James Bond debate.

    Dalton does make a great Bond. I wish he had continued with a couple more films but the legal wranglings of the franchise and the poor box office of Licence to Kill put an end to that.

    The Living Daylights as a film ranks in the middle of Bond movies. I’d have to think more about where exactly but I do like the movie. The Devil Bunny is right regarding the villain. He could have been more “Bond villainish.”

    Regarding the A-ha song, I don’t think it is a memorable one. I think Bond songs should be sung by women anyway.

  3. I loved Dalton too. However, I felt License To Kill was much better than the mousy Living Daylights. In that one, Bond had the teeth he’s meant to have.

    But, I think he did a great job as bond.

  4. Badwolf says:

    Dalton is growing on me as a Bond actor, but he’s not tops. Neither of his films are in my top 5.

    1) I don’t take umbrage with anyone who disses George Lazenby’s portrayal of Bond – OHMSS is my favorite film, but it’s not for everyone (It’s long, the story is somewhat convoluted, Bond wears a kilt, Bond gets married, etc.). I’ve read most of the Bond books and OHMSS is the film that is closest to the book from which it was taken.

    2) A-Ha doesn’t even register on my radar as far as theme songs go (and the Maurice Binder title sequences NEVER define for me whether a Bond film is any good). A-Ha doesn’t even register on my radar as a band.

    3) It falls apart with Joe Don Baker as a villain, but this shouldn’t have any bearing on whether Dalton is a good Bond or not. I have always felt and gotten a vibe from the films that Timothy Dalton was some sort of stop-gap for Eon Productions. I never got the feeling that he was their “first choice” for the role at the time. I also felt that Dalton had generally shitty scripts to work with.

    4) He’s a “gritty” Bond, to be sure, but that role has been completely eclipsed by Daniel Craig’s “gritty” Bond, especially in Skyfall. Piling-On-Department: When someone gets a semi truck up on 9 wheels, all grittiness goes out the window and now it’s a circus act – and speaking of “circus acts,” don’t make me bring up Octopussy.

  5. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Dalton truly nailed the Bond persona, even though TLD didn’t quite reach the enjoyment levels of his second movie – and one of the best Bonds, imho.

    It’s been played on my old VCR more tiomes than I can count, given that The Living Daylights came out in the bloom of VHS years

    In the late-late 80s, home video had been naturalized to the point that it was 50/50 whether to go see a feature on the big screen (with ticket prices rising) or just wait (sometimes up to a year) to catch it on tape and watch it in the comforts of our living room.
    Outgrown of its novelty, home viewing was quite exciting and new, so the two Dalton Bonds got a great many rentals and we enjoyed it every time (okay, so I might have been by myself at the end).

    Al this to say that TLD and LTK are among my top action movies of the era.
    Yeah, Dalton is more ‘action’ than ‘Bond’, people say.
    Yet, while someone could argue they don’t bring the full Bond formula to the mix and, while true for Connery purists, these later, grittier Dalton flicks undertook the task of changing that formula into something more believable (for the most part) and straight-forward.

    I’m a Bond polytheist, an apologist for all of ’em (eh…maybe David Niven should’ve gotten a real shot at it but as it stands…No) because I was raised theatrically on Moore and his quips are accompanied by the gales of laughter and general enjoyment from the first half of his films.
    Moore was the best man to take over the job when Lazenby sadly didn’t get a second chance.

    But when Timothy Dalton came along, it was like a Lethal Weapon-calibre shot to the expectations of many…and didn’t pay off as a big money in theaters.

    But I so enjoy those films, I’m kinda stunned to hear any dissing of them.

    And btw, OHMSS *is* the best Bond for me too.
    Possibly because of that thrill of re-inventing the wheel.
    Possibly because it’s the only movie before Craig (and LTK, I guess) to avoid gadgetry and rely on Ian Fleming’s book version.
    Possibly because of the exciting stunts, heart-pumping music and sparse use of the Bond theme.
    Possibly because Diana Rigg is the best Bond girl – bar none (sorry Ursula).

    Possibly because I hated it as a kid (“where’s Connery?”) but was fascinated with its effective story and action.
    Then grew to love and admire it as the years went on and all other Bonds seem to repeat themselves within the same actor ones, but this one stands apart.

    So, because of my ever-increasing admiration for OHMSS, Uncle Maffy, I respect and support your admiration for Dalton’s excellent intro to the series.

    And thanks for this great post.
    Because of it, I’ll be reviewing a few top secret dossiers via my home theater.

  6. Great comments–supportive and counterpoint, y’all! It’s refreshing to be engaged by so many spirited points of view on 007. I might have to give Lazenby another chance.

    To Max’s point…yes. Kamran Shah, the leader of the Mujahideen, was helped by a Western power to get the red menace out of Afghanistan–closely paralleling our own involvement/activities in the region. I prefer this fictional version, where we all remain friendly.

  7. Andrew Gong says:

    Mr. Dalton, if you’re reading this, I really wished you had done a third Bond film. I really liked your acting and you’re the only Bond I know that fits Ian Fleming’s description of James Bond. You should’ve regretted declining to do a third one because that would’ve given an opportunity to prove that you are THE Bond. Actually, you are THE Bond. Just because License to Kill didn’t do well doesn’t mean you’re a bad actor. You are a great actor; its just that the times weren’t at the right moment. I wished that didn’t discourage you. You should be grateful that you played Bond twice; consider George Lazenby. He only played once and never got a second chance. You were lucky to get a second film. Every time I look at the Living Daylights and License to Kill, the absence of you in a third film only wanted me to see more of you as Mr. Bond. Anyways, thanks for being the best Bond you are. I hope you appreciate the fact that you got the chance to play Bond for two films.

    From a Bond fan: Andrew Gong.

  8. AlexByasse says:

    Thank God someone has finally written about the dastardly way this great movie is review (usually). You make some good points but let me make some better ones.

    The greatest part of this movie is Kara. She is crazy hot and has the sexiest accent. Maryam D’Abo should have been a bigger star cause she’s got it all, class, beauty and talent. I love how she is a feminine cellist rather than some assassin or spy. ( I also loved Tatiana Romanova in FRWL but less so than Kara who is way hotter). Also Miss Moneypenny was also hot in this movie as was the wife of the KGB director. And the super fox at the end of the music intro in the champagne glass with the gun…. DAMN!

    Next Jeroen Krabbé was excellent in his role of General Georgi Koskov. Along with Necros who also was portrayed perfectly. I read a review that said the way Necros attacked the British Intelligence base was stupid like WTF. I don’t see how the headphones don’t make sense they’re obviously concealable as a ordinary thing as well as super quick to grab as they’re near your hands. Their probably made of some kind of really strong malleable metal. Also the milk bombs obviously have glass containers inside that are concealed by the milk that when break and mix cause an explosion.

    This movie without a doubt was the greatest 007.

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