Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Holding Up

The other day I re-watched "The Living Daylights", Timothy Dalton's first turn as James Bond. Dalton always had a certain spot in my heart as Bond actors went. He was the hardest, most serious of them. He was the one commonly considered the true embodiment of the Bond depicted in Ian Fleming's novels. Sadly he was only in two films before legal trouble put the series on hold for several years. By the time that was over, Dalton's time had come and gone.

In The Living Daylights there is a relatively conventional Bond film. There's a defecting Soviet general, a beautiful blonde sniper, and an unscrupulous arms dealer fomenting treachery in the Russian ranks. Some say it was written with the idea that Roger Moore would take on one more film as 007, which supposedly accounts for humor more suited to him than the taciturn Dalton, but it's also been written that it was written when Pierce Brosnan was the man (before being dismissed on account of his responsibility to "Remington Steele".

There are a few things that stick out to me, outside of Dalton's fine performance. Joe Don Baker is kind of fun as the arms dealer, although tonally he doesn't mesh well with Dalton's kind of Bond film. Jonathan Rhys-Davies is solid as another Russian general (not the defector). More interesting than those things, though, is the film's Afghanistan sequence. This being the 80's, the Russian invasion was serious, and since we hated them, we loved their adversaries like the Mujahideen.

Rambo 3 saw its titular hero riding alongside the Mujahideen against the villainous Russians, and the same happens in The Living Daylights. I had not remembered that, so it was interesting to think of both Rambo and Bond potentially (and of course unwittingly) palling around with Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts. It's unsettling to think of either one of the two heroes doing so alone, but it's downright amusing to picture all three of them hanging out.

Incredibly, Living Daylights seems to have an even more unrealistic picture of the situation than Rambo 3. Bond meets with a Mujahideen leader, who plays like Louis Jordan's Kamal Khan in Octopussy. He's urbane and cultured, and has a fancy little lounge room in his desert tent. Maybe I am still no wiser about Afghanistan than any of us were fifteen years ago, but I don't think the Mujahideen had a ton of guys like that.

That aside, the film works for me at least as much as any Bond film does, which is not a high bar anymore, but it's still saying a little. Dalton is still about my favorite to play the role, and with him as an anchor, the film can never go that wrong. I really have got to rewatch "License To Kill", and that could make me rethink things, but my recollections are positive. If they are disproven, rest assured that I will issue a complete reversal.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What say you, netizen?