The Living Daylights, released in 1987, is the fifteenth spy film of the James Bond series, and the first to star Timothy Dalton as the fictional British secret agent James Bond. The film's title is taken from Ian Fleming's short story "The Living Daylights."
The beginning of the film following the title sequence resembles the short story, in which Bond has to act as a counter sniper to protect a defecting Soviet. The film begins with Bond investigating the deaths of a number of MI6 agents. The Soviet defector, Georgi Koskov, informs him that General Pushkin, head of the KGB, is systematically killing Western operatives. When Koskov is seemingly snatched back by the Soviets, Bond follows him across Europe, Morocco and Afghanistan.
It was also the last film to be based on a story by Ian Fleming until 2006's Casino Royale, 19 years later.
Bond conducts the defection of a KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov, covering his intermission escape from a concert hall in Bratislava. He notices a sniper assigned to assassinate Koskov, who is actually a cellist named Kara Milovy. Suspecting that she is not an assassin, he spares her. Koskov is smuggled through the Russian oil pipeline into Austria and flown to England. There, at a countryside manor (Blayden House), Koskov informs MI6 that the KGB's old policy of Smert' Spionam, meaning Death to Spies, has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. Milovy is immediately speculated as an assassin. Some time later, an assassin named Necros infiltrates the building and abducts Koskov.
Bond travels to Bratislava to kill Pushkin but soon begins to suspect that Koskov staged his defection upon learning that Milovy was the latter's girlfriend, a fact that remains unknown to MI6. Bond travels to Bratislava to make contact with her and escapes with her into Austria. After a brief tryst with Kara in Vienna, he meets up his MI6 ally, Saunders, at the Wurstelprater amusement park. There, he reveals a link between Koskov and arms dealer, General Brad Whitaker, whose offer to sell the KGB high-tech weapons in Tangier was declined. Saunders is killed by Necros, who is disguised as a balloon seller; he leaves a balloon marked "Smert Spionam".
Bond infiltrates Pushkin's hotel room in Tangier at gun point. Pushkin reveals to Bond that contrary to Koskov's explanation, he had actually been investigating Koskov himself for the embezzlement of government funds. Bond fakes Pushkin's assassination, allowing Whitaker and Koskov, who now believe Pushkin is dead, to progress with their scheme. Meanwhile, Milovy contacts Koskov. He convinces her that Bond is a KGB agent. Accordingly, she puts Bond to sleep with a spiked beverage and engenders his capture. They are flown to a Soviet air base in Afghanistan, where Koskov betrays Milovy and imprisons her along with Bond. They escape and in doing so free a condemned prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen. Bond discovers that Whitaker and Koskov are paying diamonds for a large shipment of opium, in order to turn a huge profit with enough left over to supply the Soviets with their arms.
The Mujahideen help Bond and Milovy to infiltrate the air base. Bond plants a bomb in the back of the cargo aeroplane transporting the opium, but Koskov recognises him just as he is leaving. Bond hijacks the plane, while the Mujahideen attack the airbase on horseback. Milovy joins Bond on a jeep in the back of the plane as they take off and later assumes the controls while Bond leaves to defuse his bomb. Necros, however, had stowed away on board and attacks Bond. Bond throws Necros to his death after a struggle and deactivates the bomb. Milovy flies over Kamran Shah's Mujahideen, who are being pursued by Soviet soldiers across a bridge. Bond drops his bomb onto the bridge, preventing the Soviets' pursuit of Kamran and his men.
Bond returns to Tangier and arrives at Whitaker's residence as General Whitaker is playing Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg on his terms. When Bond tells him that the opium is burned, Whitaker takes out a submachine gun with a shield. When Bond uses up all of his bullets, Whitaker fires. Bond's explosive key-chain, triggered by a wolf whistle, topples a bust of the Duke of Wellington onto Whitaker. Bond sums it up, "He met his Waterloo." At the same time Pushkin and his bodyguards arrive. Koskov is arrested and ordered to be flown back to Moscow in a "diplomatic bag".
The producers offered the role to Brosnan after a three-day screen-test. At the time, he was contracted to the television show Remington Steele which had been cancelled by the NBC network due to falling ratings. The announcement that he would be chosen to play James Bond caused a surge in interest in the series, which led to NBC exercising an option in Brosnan's contract to make a further season of the show. NBC's action caused drastic repercussions, as a result of which Albert R. Broccoli withdrew the offer given to Brosnan, citing that he did not want the character associated with a contemporary TV series. This led to a drop in interest in Remington Steele, with the show ending abruptly following its fourth season. the edict from Broccoli was that "Remington Steele will not be James Bond.
In the intervening period, Dalton was offered the role once again, which he accepted.
Maryam d'Abo, a former model, was cast as the Czech cellist Kara Milovy. In 1984, d'Abo had attended auditions for the role of Pola Ivanova in A View To a Kill. Barbara Broccoli included d'Abo in the audition for playing Kara which she later passed.
Originally, the KGB general set up by Koskov was to be General Gogol; however, Walter Gotell was too sick to handle the major role, and the character of Leonid Pushkin replaced Gogol, who appears briefly at the end of the film, having transferred to the Soviet diplomatic service. This was Gogol's final appearance in a James Bond film. Morten Harket, the lead vocalist of the rock group a-ha (which performed the film's title song), was offered a small role as a villain's henchman in the film, but declined, because of lack of time and because he felt they wanted to cast him due to his popularity rather than his acting.
Principal photography commenced at Gibraltar on 17 September 1986. Aerial stuntmen B.J. Worth and Jake Lombard performed to the pre-credits parachute jump. Both the terrain and wind were unfavourable. Consideration was given to the stunt being done using cranes but aerial stunts arranger B.J. Worth stuck to skydiving and completed the scenes in a day. The aircraft used for the jump was a C130 which in the film had M's office installed in the aircraft cabin. The initial point of view for the scene shows M in what appears to be his usual London office, but the camera then zooms out to reveal that it is, in fact, inside an aircraft. Although marked as a Royal Air Force aircraft, the one in shot belonged to the Spanish Air Force and was used again later in the film for the Afghanistan sequences this time in "Russian" markings. During this later chapter, a fight breaks out on the open ramp of the aircraft in flight between Bond and Necros, before Necros falls to his death. Although the plot and preceeding shots suggest the aircraft is a C130, the shot of Necros falling away from the aircraft show a twin engine cargo plane, probably a C123 Provider.
The press would not meet Dalton and d'Abo until 5 October 1986, when the main unit travelled to Vienna. Almost two weeks after the second unit filming on Gibraltar, the first unit started shooting with Andreas Wisniewski and stunt man Bill Weston. During the course of these three days it took to film this fight Weston fractured a finger, and Wisniewski knocked him out once. The next day finds the crew on location at Stonor House doubling for Bladen's Safe House, the first scene Jeroen Krabbé filmed.
The film reunites Bond with British car maker Aston Martin. The car (B549 WUU) in the film is somewhat confusing. At the beginning of the film, the car appears at the Bladen safe house as a V8 Vantage Volante (convertible), complete with Vantage badges. The car used in these scenes was a preproduction Vantage Volante owned by Aston Martin Lagonda chairman, Victor Gauntlett. Later, for the Czechoslovakia scenes, the car is fitted with a hardtop ("winterised") at Q Branch, and these scenes feature a non-Volante V8 saloon, fitted with the same number plate and Vantage badges as the initial car. Two cars were used during later filming. Clearly, the later cars are intended to be the same open top car that Bond uses at Bladen, but the modification from soft top to hard top was entirely fictional and simply isn't possible with real examples of the cars.
The title song of the film, "The Living Daylights", was recorded by the Norwegian pop-music group a-ha, the first non-English speaking artists to provide a Bond song. The group and Barry did not collaborate well, resulting in two versions of the theme song. Barry's film mix is heard on the soundtrack (and on a-ha's later greatest hits album Headlines and Deadlines). The version preferred by the band can be heard on the 1988 a-ha album Stay on These Roads. However, in 2006 a-ha member Pal Waaktaar complimented Barry's contributions "I loved the stuff he added to the track, I mean it gave it this really cool string arrangement. That's when for me it started to sound like a Bond thing".
In a departure from conventions of previous Bond films, the film uses different songs over the opening and end credits (a trend that would continue until 2006, when "You Know My Name", the Chris Cornell song that served as the title song for Casino Royale, was also played over the last half of the end credits for that same film). The song heard over the end credits, "If There Was A Man", was one of two songs performed for the film by Chrissie Hynde, of The Pretenders. The other song, "Where Has Everybody Gone", is heard from Necros's Walkman in the film. The Pretenders were originally considered to perform Daylights' title song. However, the producers had been pleased with the commercial success of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", and felt that a-ha would be more likely to make an impact in the charts.
The original soundtrack release was released on LP and CD by Warner Bros. and featured only 12 tracks. Later re-releases by Rykodisc and EMI added nine additional tracks, including alternate instrumental end credits music. Rykodisc's version included the gunbarrel and opening sequence of the film as well as the jailbreak sequence, and the bombing of the bridge.
Additionally, the film featured a number of pieces of classical music, as the main Bond girl, Kara Milovy, is a cellist. Mozart's 40th Symphony in G minor (1st movement) is performed by the orchestra at the Conservatoire in Bratislava when Koskov flees. As Moneypenny tells Bond, Kara is next to perform Borodin's String Quartet in D major. Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations and the finale to Act II of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (in Vienna) also feature. At the end of the film, Kara also performs the Dvořák cello concerto in B minor to rapturous applause.
In the film, Koskov and Whitaker repeatedly use vehicles and drug packets marked with the Red Cross. This action angered a number of Red Cross Societies, which sent letters of protest regarding the film. In addition, the British Red Cross attempted to prosecute the filmmakers and distributors. However, no legal action was taken. As a result, a disclaimer was added at the start of the film and some DVD releases.
The Living Daylights has a "Fresh" score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many including John J. Puccio and Chuck O'Leary praised Timothy Dalton's performance. However, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticised the lack of humor in the protagonist.