The Living Daylights (Ultimate Edition) Review

In the skies over Gibraltar, MI6 agents 002 (Glyn Baker), 004 (Frederick Warder) and 007 parachute down to test the British outpost's defences, proving to be something of a match for the SAS. But within the action and as 004 scales a cliff face, a note is sent down his rope by an assassin...Smert Shpionam, or Death to Spies! 004's rope is cut and he falls to his death but Bond was a witness to the murder and sets off in pursuit of the killer, holding on to the roof of an explosives-filled Land Rover as he makes his escape. As the vehicle bursts through a crash barrier and falls through the air towards the Mediterranean, Bond parachutes away, leaving the assassin falling to his death. Who it is will remain unknown.

This, however, is only the first action against known spies and Bond is soon thrust into the defection of a KGB General, Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), assisting his leaving for the west from Czechoslovakia with a sniper rifle. Through his sights, Bond sees the beautiful female cellist from the concert hall, Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), taking aim at Koskov but, knowing that she is not a professional, Bond, against the advice of Saunders (Thomas Wheatley), fires only a warning shot across her rifle. Escorting Koskov to a gas plant, Bond places him in a scouring pig adapted for this very purpose and, with some assistance from Rosika Miklos (Julie T. Wallace), the KGB general is fired through the gas pipeline, where Q (Desmond Llewelyn), welcomes him to the west.

In England, General Koskov is brought to a safe house where he debriefs MI6, telling them that the ambitious KGB General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) is reactivating SMERSH, or Smert Shpionam. According to Koskov, Pushkin was responsible for the murder of the MI6 spies on Gibraltar but before Koskov can go further, KGB raid the mansion. The assassin Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) escorts Koskov out of the mansion and, assuming their reason for the raid was one of repatriation, steal him back east. MI6 assign Bond to assassinate Pushkin but something in Koskov's story and in his actions arouses Bond's suspicions. When Bond discovers that Kara Milovy was Koskov's girlfriend, he suspects that the KGB raid in England was staged. Out to prove it, Bond must also tread carefully. He may be wrong and, if he is, SMERSH may soon be after him...

After the foolishness of the later Moores, which reached a spectacularly low point with A View To A Kill, it feels good to watch a murky spy thriller that wouldn't have disgraced the early Connerys. Indeed, the Bond film that bears closest comparison to The Living Daylights is the superb second film in the series, From Russia With Love, with one seeing Koskov and Bond crisscrossing Europe where the other has 007 escorting Tatiana Romanova out of the Russian Embassy in Turkey in the luxurious surroundings of the Orient Express. But Dalton adds his own touches to the film - he's more relaxed than Connery, Lazenby or Moore when strolling through the funfair with Maryam d'Abo's Kara Milovy but also brings a much needed toughness to Bond. When one of his first actions as Bond is to headbutt a SMERSH assassin, Dalton doesn't so much wave farewell to the Moore interpretation of the character as strap explosives to it and through it out of a plane from a great height.

The Living Daylights is a great, much underrated film in the series, with Dalton - a much better actor than either Lazenby or Moore and on a par with Connery - really bringing the character to life on the screen. There's a complexity to this Bond, best shown by his anger at the death of Saunders, as well as a feeling of shame when his actions are seen by the public that's uncommon in the series. Dalton's holstering of his gun when he points it at a mother and her young son is small but important touch in the drawing of Bond's character, lending the film, in spite of the comic book excesses of the film, a more believable

Add that to a great script by Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson, who had toyed with the idea of showing Bond's origin, and good direction from John Glen, who clearly raised his game after the shambles of his later films with Moore, and you clearly have one of the best of the Bonds. Joe Don Baker is always entertaining but he makes the most of the arms dealer General Brad Whitaker while Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny makes one forget the horrors of Roger Moore and Lois Maxwell cooing over one another in A View To A Kill. Even the use of a then-current news story to flesh out the story isn't as unwelcome as it was in the Moore era, with the appearance of the Mujahideen lending the story some basis in fact whereas, against Moore's more comic touch, it would have looked silly. Even Bond's allying himself with the drug-running Mujahideen, who finance their operations by the sale of heroin, compares favourably to Connery's blowing up of Ramirez's drug lab in the pre-credits sequence of Goldfinger.

That said, the extras on this DVD do hint at what might have been - the magic carpet sequence would have been a low to rival the pigeon doing a double-take in Moonraker - but however he did it, Dalton produced the best Bond since The Spy Who Loved Me. Better still, showing this was no fluke, he did it again in his next film, Licence To Kill.


The Living Daylights really does look much, much better on the Ultimate Edition with the backgrounds sharper, the colours much more natural and a good deal more detail in the backgrounds. It is, as if sharing the renewed spirit in the production, the restoration team were given a second wind after their slump during A View To A Kill and put a greater effort into ensuring the Dalton Bonds came up to scratch. As the screenshots below demonstrate, this Ultimate Edition is a clear improvement on the Special Edition.

MGM Special Edition (Above) / Sony Ultimate Edition (Below)

MGM Special Edition (Above) / Sony Ultimate Edition (Below)

Once again, the DD5.1 of the Special Edition looks to have been remixed for this Ultimate Edition but there's really very little between them. This one, like the DTS track that's also been included, sounds a touch clearer, a little louder and with an improved range but not a great deal better than that of the Special Edition.


David Naylor introduces and gives some structure to the commentary that accompanies this film but which features so much of director John Glen that it's a wonder they bothered with any other members of the cast and crew in favour of just letting Glen get on with it. Certainly, Glen is the main attraction to listening to this commentary and after the rather dull films that saw Moore say farewell to the role, Glen sounds invigorated by working on The Living Daylights. There are, of course, contributions from others and analysis from Naylor but it's Glen who keeps the commentary going and is good throughout.

On to the second disc and to the Deleted Scenes (1m38s, 49s), which feature an introduction by John Glen as well as the utterly dreadful Flying Carpet Scene, possibly the worst moment in any Bond film in which Roger Moore doesn't also appear. This is followed by an extended deleted scene, that of the The Ice Chase Outtakes (8m10s), which, once again, is introduced by John Glen but that is a more bloated edit of the one that appeared in the film intercut with behind-the-scenes footage. Much better is Happy Anniversary 007 (47m49s), a look back at the Bond films made during the twenty-five years up to The Living Daylights, which is introduced by Roger Moore and acts as a greatest-hits compilation of Bond, including all one's favourite memories of the films. The anniversary celebrations continue with Silver Anniversary Featurettes (1m28s, 1m16s, 1m31s and 1m58s) that includes short features on Cubby Broccoli, Maryam D'Abo, Around the World with James Bond and The New Bond Car. This is followed by three sets of interviews with the cast, including a James Bond/Vienna Press Conference (4m34s), Dalton and D'Abo Interviews (6m54s) and Timothy Dalton on Acting (5m30s). Finally, there is the worthless Interactive Guide.

The content brought over from the MGM Special Edition includes the original making-of, Inside The Living Daylights (33m39s), a wonderful feature on Ian Fleming, 007's Creator (43m05s) and two short inserts on A-ha's theme to the film, one the Video (4m20s) and the other a Making-of the Video (3m54s). Interestingly, Inside The Living Daylights includes the Sam Neill screen test with Fiona Fullerton that was reputed, through Internet chatter, to have been the reason why The Living Daylights was quickly withdrawn from the last issue of the MGM Special Editions. As John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation later made clear, they had obtained a signed release from Sam Neill but the issue was one of MGM not having a licence to publish the DVD from Danjac Ltd. Either way, this footage is included here with an explanation from Michael Wilson why Neill was not chosen for the role, despite it being a closely fought contest between him and Timothy Dalton. Finally, there are the Original Trailers (1m21s, 1m39s and 1m22s) and a Photo Gallery.

8 out of 10
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Last updated: 21/06/2018 03:20:33

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