James Bond January: “The Living Daylights”

Director: John Glen (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker)
Novel: Ian Fleming
Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen KrabbĂ©, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 130 min.


This is one of many in a series of reviews that are part of the James Bond January blog-a-thon started at paragraphfilmreviews. Each day throughout the month a new review of each of the films in the 007 franchise by various bloggers, fans and critics. Enjoy!

I seem to remember pretty much everyone being put off by the Timothy Dalton evolution of James Bond when he took over for Roger Moore in 1987 with The Living Daylights. I remember being firmly within the majority at the time. Recently as I’ve surfed around the movie web sites it’s now become fashionable to claim that Dalton is actually one of the better incarnations of Bond. I have to respectfully disagree with that sentiment. But we’ll get to that.

Not having seen all of the Bond films, The Living Daylights has got to be one of the more convoluted in plot structure. The movie goes all over the place with a number of villains all seemingly after different things and so full of double cross that it almost seems Bond could simply step back, not get in the way and watch the whole affair implode on its own. To be perfectly honest, I was never quite sure who wanted what or why. This picture didn’t seem to have that quintessential, iconic villain that other 007 movies have. There’s no one villain that sticks out as really something special (like Dr. No, Le Chiffre, Jaws or even a Mr. Big or Max Zorin). Yes it’s obvious who the villains are (by the end anyway) and that Bond must defeat them, but for the life of me I can’t figure out exactly what the stakes involved are here. It’s possible that the plot is simply overly ambitious, but at well over two hours, it just becomes a mess.

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James Bond January: “Dr. No”

Director: Terence Young (From Russia with Love, Thunderball)
Novel: Ian Fleming
Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Starring: Sean Connery, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, John Kitzmiller, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 110 min.


This is the first in a series of reviews that are part of the James Bond January blog-a-thon started at paragraphfilmreviews. Each day throughout the month a new review of each of the films in the 007 franchise by various bloggers, fans and critics. Enjoy!

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s I’m much more familiar with the more gadget driven Bond, popularized by Roger Moore and later more gimmickily and outlandishly from Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Dr. No on the other hand, the first in the Bond empire and a first time watch for me, is much simpler; leaning dangerously close to simple detective story rather than a cloak and dagger, spy picture. Sure there’s some international intrigue and some exciting action moments, but more than half of the film is searching for clues, interviewing suspects and gathering information from the (almost bumbling) local law enforecment. Of course in retrospect, I suppose that all of the Bond films do this in some respects, but with Dr. No it feels much more straight forward and simplistic. I better understand now why Daniel Craig’s Bond (specifically Casino Royale) was touted as returning to the roots of the 007 franchsie.

Now that is not to say the Bond conventions are not present. Quite on the contrary. The femme fatales with inuendo names (Honey Ryder), the menacing henchmen, the not so surprising traitor and of course the mysterious evil genius with a unique character trait (in this case, super-human, robotic hands). Many of the things we expect 007 to say and do are all present here and with all of the ensuing entries in the franchise, they almost feel like cliche caricature traits at this point. Of course this isn’t a bad thing. This is what makes Bond one of the most beloved characters in cinematic history. Being the first film in the series, this is the picture that sets the tone and general style of the adventures and the tenets of the character for years to come.

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