Russian General Georgi Koskov who, with Bond's help, has successfully defected to the west informs MI6 of a spy assassination plot set in motion by rogue KGB Boss Pushkin. But what's really going on and what role does American arms dealer Brad Whittaker play in this sinister scheme? Teaming up with Koskov's girlfriend Bond attempts to find out…in his own inimitable fashion.
This, the debut outing for Timothy Dalton's Bond saw a tougher edge reintroduced to the series, an attempt to return 007 to his roots after the light-hearted fun of the Roger Moore years. The iconic character was also coming under criticism from some quarters in the alarmist days of Political Correctness that sought to end the womanising ways of Fleming's creation. In addition the 80s saw the release of a glut of American action movies that threatened to topple the Bond films from their throne. Could Commander James Bond thwart such a pair of adversaries?
Thankfully, with Bond veteran John Glen in the director's chair for the fourth time, everything is present and correct as the movie kicks off with an entertaining action scene that introduces Dalton's 007. Followed by an opening credits sequence complete with scantily glad women gyrating appealingly to A-Ha. Plot wise things have changed, gone are the predilections for world domination by evil masterminds replaced by a narrative that follows the spy thriller tradition found in the original novels.
With defecting agents, espionage, arms dealing and double crosses The Living Daylights is probably the most complexly plotted of all the Bond films. In fact it's one of the few movies in the franchise that has an air of authenticity and reality to it with Bond acting more like an MI6 spy, the plot kicking off with him on a mission to help a Russian defection armed with a sniper rifle. All very cold war. Thankfully this grittier tone is balanced with thrilling set pieces that could only exist in a Bond movie - a car chase through the snowy tundra with 007 assisted by his gadget laden Aston Martin being one of the highlights. It's our hero's love life that's the major casualty as Bond girl Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo) isn't on the receiving end of 007's charms until the mission is completed. When checking into a hotel he even requests a "second bedroom" for his female companion. Not exactly keeping the British end up are we Mr Bond! Oh well, he does get to clock up a few air miles as true to tradition the plot takes in a number of exotic locations from rooftop chases in Morocco to a punch up with a henchman hanging out the back of a plane over the battlefields of Afghanistan.
Despite Dalton occasionally appearing uncomfortable with having to deliver witty one-liners and there being a dull nemesis for our hero The Living Daylights is an enjoyable entry in the series that is complemented by some strong supporting performances - Jeroen Krabbé relishing his turn as Koskov and the ever reliable John Rhys-Davies on hand to flesh out the role of Pushkin. It successfully combines the familiar stunts and gadgets with a more serious plot that mirrors Dalton's interpretation of the best action hero of all time. Sadly its successor, Licence To Kill, was little more than a pale imitation of its cinematic contemporaries and the Bond franchise disappeared from cinemas for 6 years, Goldeneye marking its triumphant return.