Film / The Living Daylights

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

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:

  • to feature a blonde Bond Girl (or if you're feeling punny, a Blonde Girl) in a lead role, until Léa Seydoux as Madeline Swann in Spectre.note 
  • to feature the Soviet Union as a major player.note 
  • to be based off a piece of Ian Fleming's original Bond fiction (in this case, a short story), until Casino Royale (2006) was finally made to reboot the franchise with Daniel Craig as Bond.note 
  • to feature the legendary John Barry's music; he retired from the series after this film.
  • to receive a PG rating from the MPAA; the much grittier Licence to Kill would receive a PG-13 rating and all subsequent films in the series would follow suit.


This film contains examples of:

  • The '80s: While not as obvious as A View to a Kill, its still got a-ha, '80s Hair and, of course: the boom box with an integrated missile launcher is called the Ghetto Blaster.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original short story is only about the sniper mission at the beginning of the movie. It 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.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original short story, the agent (Koskov) is someone Bond must help while the sniper (Kara) is the antagonist. In the film the roles are reversed, with Koskov revealed to be the mastermind, and Kara being an innocent girl he framed.
  • 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 / Alternate History: In-universe, Bond notes a flaw in Whitaker's 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: Green Four, the security guard/butler who enters the kitchen after Necros killed the Chef qualifies. 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), and comes close to winning at several points.
    • 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, except the stenographer, who's a stenographer.
  • 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 Girl: Pokes some fun at the trope with Bond's overweight Slavic assistant.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "He got the boot." Necros fell out the back of the open cargo bay door of a plane in flight by Bond cutting the laces of his own shoe, which Necros was hanging on to.
    • "He met his Waterloo." Bond had set off a small explosion that toppled a statue of the Duke of Wellington onto Whitaker.
  • Bond, James Bond
  • Brick Joke
    • Bond overrides Saunders' 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.
  • California Doubling: Vienna plays the part of Bratislava, as well as appearing as itself. Similarly, Morocco appears as itself and Afghanistan.
  • Calling Card: Smiert Spionom
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: Bond shoots General Pushkin during a conference, in full view of everybody, including the Russian authorities. Of course, that's exactly the point.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • 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 a woman who from behind looks like 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 Door Slams You: Saunders is killed when Necros uses a small explosive charge to propel a sliding glass door into him at lethal velocity.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Koskov is a downplayed version of this.
  • 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 Flag Operation: Koskov and Whitaker stage what appear to be KGB assassinations of several Western agents, in order to trick MI6 into eliminating the new KGB director for them before he can have them arrested for corruption.
  • 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "I'm glad we brought that cello!"
  • 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.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: The bored girl on the yacht expresses her longing for a real man over the phone. Enter 007.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: "Sorry, old man: section five, paragraph eight. Need to know. I'm sure you understand."note 
  • 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 for Pun: Bond's pipeline to the West is... an actual pipeline.
  • 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.
  • 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 Hell: As part of a distraction.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Necros' name is from the Greek prefix meaning death.
    • Russian Generals Pushkin and Gogol were named after famous Russian authors.
  • Meganekko: Miss Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss) wears glasses now.
  • 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. 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, which given what came out eight years later, it's quite ironic.
  • Musical Trigger: The stun-gas keyring is set off by whistling. Justified, it's disguised as a whistle-activated keyring finder. It will also respond to a wolf call by exploding.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The two other Double-0 agents in the opening teaser resemble Roger Moore and George Lazenby.
    • In the books, Smiert Spionom (SMERSH) were a constant rival to Bond. Their role was mostly assumed by SPECTRE in the film series.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: 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: Pushkin's mistress is only wearing some panties and stockings after Bond forcefully removes her robe, in order to distract one of Pushkin's guards.
  • Parachute in a Tree: This happens to a trainee spy in the opening sequence.
  • Phony Veteran: 'General' Brad Whitaker. General Pushkin 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.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Saunders plans to smuggle Koskov over the border this way, but Bond overrules him. "That's the first place they'd look." Indeed, Saunders is later seen looking on in exasperation as the border guards search the trunk of his car.
  • Rare Guns: The cool but unusual Walther WA 2000. Only 176 were ever made.
  • Renegade Russian: Koskov's actions are motivated by a combination of greed and the need to cover up his misappropriation of state funds for personal gain before Pushkin can have him arrested.
  • 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 because Bond 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.
  • 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.
    • Two to The Third Man (on which John Glen had worked as assistant sound editor), also set in Vienna: Bond and Kara ride on the ferris wheel in the Prater, and just before, Necros (posing as a balloon salesman) asks Bond "Ballon, mein Herr?", words spoken by an insistent elderly man to Sgt Paine in the older film. Sgt Paine is played by none other than Bernard Lee, the previous M.
  • Show Some Leg: Played with in that instead of the usual slim gorgeous Bond Girl, 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
  • 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
  • Stock Scream: It's faint, but you can hear the Wilhelm Scream on the outside after the third bottle bomb goes off.
  • Stocking Filler: Pushkin's mistress.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: 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...except that at the time she didn't know that Koskov had made such arrangements and that Bond was simply a friend of his, making their affair rather skeevy in retrospect. This said, on top of everything else it's heavily implied that Koskov is taking plenty of advantage of the beautiful women hanging around Whitaker's compound to enjoy himself and isn't particularly concerned about Kara to begin with, so it's not like we feel that sorry for him or anything.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pushkin gives a short but brutal one to Whitaker when he tries to appeal to him "from one old soldier to another."
    Pushkin: Spare me your military pretensions. What army did you serve in? ... You were expelled from West Point for cheating. A short stint as a mercenary in the Belgian Congo. Later, you worked with various criminal organizations that helped finance your first arms deals.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Kara, who takes it upon herself to rescue Bond from the Soviet airbase when Kamran initially says the risk in attacking is too great.
  • Truth in Television: Bond hesitates to assassinate General Pushkin, head of the KGB, because he doesn't believe Pushkin could do something like resurrect the Smiert Shpionam assassination program. This is, for the most part, how professional spy agencies really work. You can hurt the traitors within you, but you leave their case officers alone.
  • Vehicle Vanish: A KGB agent has Kara under surveillance. He watches her enter a phone booth, then, after a streetcar lumbers by between them, a black Aston-Martin parked nearby drives off. It takes the agent a short while to realize she'd put her hat and coat over a cello case in the booth and gotten away with Bond in the car.
  • 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.
    • The film seems to reuse a lot of the elements of Octopussy. The plot moves along through the use of two 00-agents (both of whom are eliminated at some point), Is set at one point in Eastern Europe, then Austria for this film, Germany for that; Involves a Big Bad who in both films is a rogue Russian general, and uses a Smug Snake to further his ultimate goals. Both films have the reasonable head of the KGB (Gogol in Octopussy and Pushkin in The Living Daylights) trying to preserve the Status Quo against these rogue elements. Smuggling is an activity conducted/mentioned in both films. Both films have The Dragon played as KGB agents who murder Bond's ally. In this film Saunders gets chopped up by a glass door, in Octopussy Vijay gets chopped up by the Saw/Yo-Yo thingee. Both films wind up in or near Afghanistan and both films end with a climactic air battle with Bond disposing of The Dragon using the trope of a Disney Villain Death. Bond and the Bond Girl escape from the aforementioned plane at the last moment before it crashes in both films.
  • Worthy Adversary: Central to the plot. Bond has dealt with General Pushkin before and respects him as a dangerous but professional opponent. Because of this, he is dubious of Koskov's portrayal of Pushkin as a Knight Templar who's declared war on the Western intelligence services. Correctly, as it turns out.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Played straight in the original story, but as Bond has averted this trope in past movies it's made a Justified Trope. In the movie, 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.

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