After the Remington Steele controversy with Pierce Brosnan, wherein NBC's last minute decision to renew the series after announcing its cancellation left him unable to play Bond, the publically reluctant Timothy Dalton stepped into the role, bringing a darker, humourless vibe to the man with a license to kill. The resultant fifteenth cinematic 007 mission, The Living Daylights, was received well at the time, mainly because of its dramatic shift in tone from the notably disappointing predecessor, A View to a Kill.
Featuring one of the most lethargic Bond themes ever from the likes of a-ha, this late '80s addition to the Bond franchise reiterated the Cold War formula, assigning Bond to protect KGB defector Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), aiding in his escape from an assassination attempt by a Czechoslovakian cellist. After the escape is successful, Bond tracks down General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), believing him to be behind the deaths of many MI6 agents, only to learn that the cellist (Maryam d'Abo) is actually Koskov's lover and the entire thing was a setup.
In its apparent simplicity and back to the basics plot structure, Daylights was a smartly conceived entry to the franchise, doing an ersatz reboot—something Casino Royale would do two decades later—of a series that had gone stale. It even featured some impressive action sequences and set pieces—in particular, the climactic cargo plane battle amidst bags of opium—making for compelling, visceral entertainment.
On the downside, the bland, diffident cello-playing Bond girl was little more than an empty vessel for Bond to bang when not escaping a Soviet Air Base in Afghanistan. In addition, Bond's decision to rip off a woman's clothes as a way of evading a villain and utilizing a cello case as an unlikely toboggan demonstrated a lack of creativity in handling the more playful elements of the series, which is something exacerbated by the constant whore-y explosions.
Still, the broader themes of distrust and instinct were handled with far more intelligence and awareness than the majority of the Moore entries, which were typically preoccupied with referential, tongue-in-cheek, pap. In such, Daylights marked a much needed return to form and deconstruction of Cold War ethos.
The Living Daylights screens as part of the Shaken, Not Stirred: Bond on Film retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Screening initially at 12pm on November 11th, 2012, it will return to the Lightbox in December for additional big screen viewing opportunities. (MGM)