Film: The Living Daylights

"Whoever she was, it must have scared the living daylights out of her."

The one with Bond going all The Third Man.

The Living Daylights is the 15th James Bond film and the first of the two starring Timothy Dalton as the suave British agent.

After a training exercise Bond and the other 00-Agents are involved in on Gibraltar turns deadly for 004 and a few SAS guards the agents were sparring against, Bond is given his next mission: assist in the defection of a highly ranked Soviet general named Georgi Koskov when he visits the Conservatoire in Bratislava, Czechoslavakia. The defection works out, but Bond suspects something's amiss when the sniper sent to kill the defector was the pretty cellist performing at the Conservatoire, who was clearly not a professional with a sniper rifle. Against orders, Bond merely wounds the woman, before helping Koskov get over the border to Austria via one of Q's contraptions.

Back in London, Koskov reveals that the new head of the KGB, General Pushkin, is starting up a new ruthless counterintelligence operation called Smiert Spionom, Russian for "Death to Spies." Koskov fears that it will lead to retaliation from the British or Americans and possibly even lead to nuclear war. However, before further details can be gleaned from him, Koskov is snatched from the safehouse he was being kept in, assumedly by the KGB.

Bond thinks there's more to the story than meets the eye, but M is convinced enough to order that Pushkin be killed while at a trade convention in Tangiers, especially when 004's body is returned from Gibraltar with a found note reading Smiert Spionom. Bond accepts the assassination order reluctantly, but decides that there's enough time to investigate things in Bratislava, starting with that pretty cellist...

This is one of the most complex of the Bond films with a few good twists along the way, and a lot of great action scenes, as well as being one of the ones that feels somewhat like an actual spy movie, if still clearly a Bond film. Also noteworthy in that this film is the last film:

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The original short story is only about the sniper mission at the beginning of the movie.
    • The story features Bond having to help a British agent escape East Berlin, by eliminating the opposing sniper. When he recognises her as a beautiful woman he saw earlier, he merely elects to wound her and prevent her killing the agent. M is not happy, as Bond's delay caused by adjusting his aim nearly causes the mission to fail.
  • Androcles' Lion: When Bond and Kara are thrown in a prison in Afghanistan, they quickly beat up their guards and escape. On a whim, they free the prisoner in the next cell, who quickly proves to be a valuable ally as he's a leader of the Afghan Resistance.
  • Artistic License – History: In-universe; Whitaker's failings as a military strategist are further highlighted when Bond notes a flaw in his Gettysburg reenactment:
    Bond: Pickett's Charge was up Cemetery Ridge, not Little Round Top.
    Whitaker: I'm replaying the battle as I would have fought it!
  • As You Know: Done by having Saunders overtly patronizing Bond.
    "Now let's understand each other, Bond. General Koskov is a top KGB mastermind. His defection is my baby. He contacted me. I've planned this out to the last detail."
  • Badass Bystander: The security guard/butler who enters the kitchen after Necros killed the Chef qualifies. Not only does he manage to fight Necros for several minutes in a hand to hand fight (remember that's the guy who is supposed to give Bond trouble), he also most likely survived having been only knocked out with a frying pan.
    • Kamran Shah appears to be one of these as well during his first appearance, but he turns out to be quite important indeed.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: General Koskov does this.
  • Battle Butler: At the safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed, everyone from gardeners to butlers is shown to be a guard.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Koskov and Whitaker.
  • Big "NO!": The first Double 0 as his rope is cut.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: In the original short story too. Notably, Kara does not escape uninjured, and Bond eventually uses his knowledge of how her arm was hurt to convince her to trust him over Koskov.
  • Blood Knight: Brad Whitaker is a war fanatic, despite the fact he's called on being grossly incompetent at it by everyone he meets.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "He met his Waterloo".
    • "He got the boot."
  • Bond, James Bond
  • Brick Joke
    • Bond overrides Saunder's plan to smuggle Koskov out in the boot of the car because that's the first place any border guards would think to look. When they reach the border after smuggling Koskov out through a different route, we see a shot of the border guards... checking out the boot of the car. Saunders looks a bit put-out.
    • During the escape to Austria via Cello case, the actual cello gets struck by a bullet with Bond saying a simple "Sorry" to Kara. In the finale, Kara is seen with the same cello with special focus on the bullet hole in its woodwork.
  • The Brute: Necros is a very cunning and intelligent example of this.
  • The Cameo: Max (The Macaw) from For Your Eyes Only
    • Also General Gogol, now a diplomat, after his role was taken up by the character of General Pushkin. The actor playing Gogol was (at the time) in poor health.
  • Calling Card: Smiert Spionom
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Bond's reaction to Koskov asking him about the female sniper he just shot. Koskov naturally assumes Bond didn't like killing a woman, when he's actually concealing that fact that he didn't kill her at all.
  • Character Development: Bond refuses to kill someone who isn't a professional killer like himself and states he'll resign if they try and make him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kara's injury. See Blasting It out of Their Hands.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Kara's Cello. While it becomes useful in the escape to Austria, what is more important is HOW the cello was obtained by Kara as it was originally purchased by Whitaker.
  • Continuity Nod: In the books, Smiert Spionom (SMERSH) were a constant rival to Bond. Their role was mostly assumed by SPECTRE in the film series.
  • Cool Car: Bond's Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
  • Covers Always Lie: One of the film's posters shows the gunbarrel with Timothy Dalton aiming at Maryam D'Abo in a sheer diaphanous white dress, who carries a silenced gun. No such scene appears in the film, and the blonde woman is apparently not supposed to represent Kara Milovy.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to previous Bond movies, at least. Bond as played by Dalton is more grim and cynical than Moore's Bond had been and the plot is comparatively more down to earth, revolving around arms dealing, the opium trade and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with no super-weapons or the like (although some of Whitaker's advanced pieces of weaponry and body armour might straddle the line).
  • Deadly Delivery: The Dragon disguises himself as a milkman and a balloon salesman. Both times he kills his targets by strangling them with the cords of his headphones.
  • Disney Villain Death: Necros
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Bond dispatches Pushkin's bodyguard by using Pushkin's topless mistress as a distraction.
  • The Dragon: Necros.
  • Driving Into A Truck: A jeep evades pursuers by driving onto the extended rear hatch of a taxiing C-130.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Kara
  • End of an Age: The last Bond film to feature the Soviet Union and the last Bond film to have the score composed by John Barry (and some would consider the score to be some of Barry's finest work).
  • Ensign Newbie: Saunders is a pretty high-ranking station chief who has become so at a reasonably young age, but when it comes to running Koskov's defection clearly has little clue what he's doing. Bond essentially scraps Saunders' original plans and takes over.
  • Evil Plan: It's a Bond film; of course the Big Bad has one. It involves the defector.
  • False Reassurance: Played with; when shooing Koskov into the pipeline capsule, Bond offers soothing reassurance about how long their technicians have been working on the device... but then, when Koskov is all strapped in and is about to be locked into the device, mischievously pulls the rug from under him by pointing out that Koskov is the first person to actually use it.
  • Faking the Dead: Bond helps Pushkin to fake his death at the former's hands to find out what Koskov and Whitaker are up to. This may have inadvertently saved Pushkin's life as Necros was in the rafters ready to kill him as well.
  • Ferris Wheel Date Moment: Bond and Kara make out during a ferris wheel ride.
  • Friendly Enemy: Bond and Pushkin appear to have, at the very least, a healthy mutual respect for each other; upon receiving his orders to assassinate Pushkin, Bond protests that he can hardly believe that Pushkin is the murderous hardliner that Koskov has painted him as, only to reluctantly relent when M offers / threatens to send another agent to do the job instead ("If it must be done, I'll do it.").
  • Foreshadowing: After the sniper sequence in Vienna, when told that he disobeyed orders Bond snarls that if M wants him to resign, he'll welcome it. The very next movie, M revokes his license to kill.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Used in the aforementioned kitchen brawl.
  • Genius Bruiser: Necros.
  • Gilligan Cut: Bond informs Kara there is absolutely no way they can take the risk to go back for her cello. Immediate cut to:
    Bond: Why couldn't you have learned the violin?
  • Giving Them the Strip: Necros falls to his death still clutching Bond's boot.
  • Groin Attack: Bond narrowly avoids being shot in the crotch early on in the film.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Bond's conversation with Pushkin in the hotel room.
    Bond: If I trusted Koskov, we wouldn't be talking.
  • Improvised Zipline: A deleted scene had Bond create an impromptu 'flying carpet' by tossing a rug over some telephone wires.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: MI-6 has a pipeline to the West. No, really, an actual pipeline.
    • Q shows off a boom box with an integrated missile launcher. "Something we're making for the Americans," he quips. "It's called a ghetto blaster."
  • Interesting Situation Duel: The fistfight while hanging out the back of the cargo plane.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Necros uses this trope to advantage, switching effortlessly when posing as an American jogger, a British delivery driver and a (public school accent) guard, then a Fake Russian accent when doing the actual kidnapping so people will think the KGB is involved.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The American C-130 being used as a Soviet transport. At first, one could be forgiven for thinking its one of Whitaker's planes...until you see shots of the control panel and notice the wording is in Cyrillic...
    • And it appears the labels have been taped on.
    • Equally jarring is the presence of an American OV-10 Bronco among the assortment of Soviet aircraft on the airstrip in Afghanistan.
  • Plus, among the planes seen on the Soviet airfield in Afghanistan is an American-made Rockwell OV-10 Bronco.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: Bond gets taken away at gunpoint not for nefarious purposes, but so that his old friend Felix Leiter can ask what's up.
  • Kitchen Chase: One scene involves a full-on fight between a British intelligence mook and a KGB hitman in the kitchen of an MI6 safehouse.
  • Marshmallow Heaven: As part of a distraction.
  • Meaningful Name: Necros' name is from the Greek prefix meaning death.
  • Meganekko: Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss).
  • Miles Gloriosus: Koskov implies Whitaker is one of these. Pushkin does more than imply, he goes into extremely unimpressed detail about the multiple ways that Whitaker fails to live up to the image he tries to present.
  • Mood Whiplash: Versus Roger Moore's previous take. Also within the movie, since it was originally written for Moore. A lot of the Moore-era puns and silliness are there, but Dalton's presence generally gives the film a much darker atmosphere.
  • Murderous Thighs: One female Russian assassin, who looks like a Brawn Hilda, is said to murder her targets with her thighs. Moneypenny quips that it sounds like the perfect date for Bond.
  • Musical Trigger: The stun-gas keyring is set off by whistling. Justified, it's disguised as a whistle-activated keyring finder.
  • Mythology Gag: The two other Double-0 agents in the opening teaser resemble Roger Moore and George Lazenby.
  • Never Trust A Poster: The blonde girl on the original movie poster (not the trope picture above) is neither Maryam D'abo, nor is she supposed to represent her character from the film (according to the producers). It's all just a big coincidence.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: How Koskov deceives Bond and the rest of MI6.
    • Kamran Shah also does this to fool the Russian prison guards.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Averted with Saunders. He seems to be set up this way at the beginning of the movie, but is far more helpful when he works with Bond again later in the movie, even bending the rules to help him. Since he's an actual spy and not an assassin, his poor performance the first time around can probably be put down to having little previous exposure to Bond's line of work. (And Bond's flexible attitude towards orders, rules, and plans).
  • Oh, Crap: Koskov's reaction to Pushkin's "diplomatic bag" line.
  • Paintball Episode: In the opening Double O Agents try to parachute and inflitrate the British radar station at Gibraltar as part of a wargame exercise. SAS troops try to stop them by shooting them with paintballs.
  • Panty Shot
  • Parachute in a Tree: This happens to a trainee spy in the opening sequence.
  • Phony Veteran: 'General' Brad Whitaker. General Puskin gives a scathing rundown of his actual military record.
  • Playing Both Sides
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Bond breaks into Whitaker's mansion for their final conflict only to discover him blowing up toy soldiers and giggling hysterically during a Gettysburg war-game.
  • Rare Gun: the cool but unusual Walther WA 2000. Only 176 were ever made.
  • Reds with Rockets: Churned through.
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: The reason why Bond didn't kill the female sniper (Kara), although Saunders and M think it's Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
    Bond: Stuff my orders, I only kill professionals. That girl didn't know one end of a rifle from the other.
    • And if Bond had killed Kara, she wouldn't have needed to dump the gun, Bond wouldn't have found the blanks, the British (including Bond) would have thought Koskov's defection was real, Bond would have killed Pushkin, and the bad guys would have won. (That, or it would have been a very short movie.)
  • Sealed with a Kiss: It's a Bond film, so of course it ends with an "Oh, James..."
  • Senseless Violins: Kara Milovy conceals a sniper rifle in her cello case.
  • Shout-Out: Pushkin, like his predecessor Gogol, was named after a famous 19th Century Russian novelist.
  • Show Some Leg: Played with in that instead of the usual slim gorgeous Bond Girl, an overweight a husky Slav woman provides the distraction so Koskov can defect.
  • Smug Snake: General Koskov so very much wants to be a Magnificent Bastard, but doesn't quite make the cut. His happy dance doesn't help.
    • Whittaker is a better example, priding himself as a military genius, even though he's a disgraced student of West Point.
  • Sniper Duel: The film opens with one, but Bond quickly realises that the girl on the other side isn't a sniper at all - barely knowing one end of a rifle from the other - and refuses to kill her. He instead shoots the rifle out of her hands.
  • Sniper Rifle / Rare Guns
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Brad Whitaker
  • Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
  • Spiked Wheels: A high-tech version using Frickin' Laser Beams. If that wasn't enough, the tyres also have retractable spikes for grip on snow and ice.
  • Staged Shooting
  • Stocking Filler: Pushkin's mistress.
  • Sympathetic Adulteress: Kara never has sex with Bond (at least until the end of the movie) but you can't blame her for wanting to cheat on Koskov seeing as he tried to have her killed.
  • Tempting Fate: "That it, mate. You're dead." Note, this is said by a guard who thinks the real assassin is involved in the paintball test mission.
  • Television Geography: The landscape of the Austrian-Slovak border is wildly inaccurate, but justified by Rule of Cool because of HOW it was crossed.
  • Title Drop: Bond about shooting Kara's sniper rifle: "It must have scared the living daylights out of her!
    • Retained from the short story it was based on.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan is prominently featured as Bond allies with some Mujahideen members.
  • Villain Song: "Where Has Everybody Gone?", for Necros. The instrumental version is his Leitmotif.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Bond is drugged in Tangier and wakes up on a plane bound for Afghanistan.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Koskov and Whittaker are trading diamonds to the Afghans for opium. The Afghans use the diamonds to buy weapons, and then Whittaker sells the opium and uses some of the profits to buy guns that Koskov purchases for the Russian Army. Since the diamonds were purchased using the down payment Koskov paid for the guns the Russians are getting, they're essentially trying to arm both sides on the USSR's dime and profit immensely from it.
  • Weaponized Car: Bond's Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To The Third Man (you know, an Anglo-Saxon macho falls in love with a Bohemian performer and escapee who is trailed by the KGB and both then roam Vienna and especially the Great Ferris Wheel on the Wurstelprater, and the supposed best friend and most trusted ally turns out to be anything but unavailable. Oh yeah, and he coldly betrayed his girlfriend - the same one who ended up with the protagonist - by delivering her to the Soviets because she knew too much) Right down to 'Balloon, Mein Herr'.
    • Not a coincidence - director John Glen's first job on a film was on The Third Man, and he explicitly mentions adding various style and plot references in the DVD commentary.
  • Wouldn't Shoot a (Beautiful) Girl: Bond is accused of this after his decision to not actually shoot the sniper apparently risks the defection. Bond counters that it's not beautiful women that's the problem, it's people who aren't part of the spy business — Bond could see from the way she was handling the gun that she wasn't experienced with guns, and so couldn't be a KGB sniper.