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‘The Living Daylights’ (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 31, 1987

007's come a long way, baby.

Timothy Dalton, an '80s-male Bond, explores monogamy and probably also practices safe sex. In past adventures, we would have known for sure, but this 007 is right on top of things. Either because his consciousness has been raised (unlikely) or because he is afraid of AIDS (more likely), he's taken to faithfulness and the ever so more romantic fade-to-black.

And 007's latest, "The Living Daylights," a snazzy spy thriller, is all the more alluring for its new conservatism. It's right up there with the early Bonds, though not in the league with "Goldfinger." But oh, what a difference. Here, only the villains -- an arms dealer and a KGB double agent -- keep pools full of bikini-bimbos, with moues and runaway libidos. And even the notorious Bond "girls" have changed. They used to have names like characters out of "Cats." Here, love interest Maryam d'Abo is a sensible Czech cellist named Kara Milovy, who enjoys a better bond than Bond-bonders past. You might even call it a relationship.

Dalton, no waffler, develops the best Bond ever. He's as classy as the trademark tuxedo, as sleek as the Astin-Martin. Like Bond's notorious martini, women who encounter his carved-granite good looks are shaken, not stirred. Dalton does not play a pompous, mean-spirited Bond like Sean Connery or a prissy, sissy Bond like Roger Moore. Both were as aggressively heterosexual as pubescent Playboy subscribers.

Calling on a background that includes everything from the Joan Collins' potboiling mini-series "Sins" to a stint with the Royal Shakespeareans, Dalton creates a dashing and endearing secret agent. And unlike the creaky Connery and the mushy Moore in their later years, he looks fit for derring-do.

He fleshes out the caricature that had evolved over the past 25 years. For inspiration, Dalton went back to the original 007 created by writer Ian Fleming, a character who endures, like such British perennials as Sherlock Holmes, for his audacity, e'lan and idiosyncrasies.

"The Living Daylights," which uses a Fleming short story as a springboard, is the 15th in the series produced by Albert (Cubby) Broccoli, the constant force behind the pictures. Directors come and go, but Broccoli remains, lavishing time, attention and megabucks on the formula adventures. "Daylights," directed by John Glen of "For Your Eyes Only," is graciously paced, though overplotted, so some seat-shifting sets in about 30 minutes before the end.

There's the customary globe-trotting -- from Austria to Morocco to Afghanistan -- and those still-spectacular stunts. In the giddiest scene, Kara and James elude the KGB, ingeniously tobogganing to safety aboard the case for her cello, a Stradivarius named Lady Rose. Of course, the instrument still resonates despite the bumps and the bullet holes.

D'Abo, who looks like a French variation on "L.A. Law's" Susan Dey, is an appealing partner, if mild-mannered by Bond standards. She does know when to step into the fray, charging a Soviet air base with a camel-back party of Afghan guerrillas. The screenplay, cowritten by veteran Richard Maibaum and coproducer Michael G. Wilson, keeps up with current events. While in no way as amazing as Ollie's Follies, it is right on target with its focus on arms wheeler-dealers.

Still, the villains aren't what they used to be. They can no longer kill you with their hats. And no one's wearing stainless steel dentures. Villains once sought world domination because they were monomaniacal. This one, played by Joe Don Baker, was expelled from West Point for cheating. He's a redneck arms dealer in league with Gen. Georgi Koskov, a KGB double-crosser played by Jeroen Krabbe. Koskov, a defector assigned to Bond, is nearly shot by Kara, obviously an amateur assassin, before 007 can whisk him to the West. After arriving in Britain, Koskov is kidnaped by one of theirs -- or so it seems. Bond's only lead is Kara, the sniper-cellist, actually a Koskov prote'ge'e, who joins 007 on his glitzy mission.

Gadgets, such as an exploding "ghetto blaster," are supplied by Desmond Llewelyn, who returns as Q. Robert Brown is also back as the tweedy intelligence chief, but the actress who played Bond's secretary has been put out to pasture. Caroline Bliss is a newly minted Miss Moneypenny, pert and professional opposite the new, improved Bond ... still licensed to thrill.

"The Living Daylights" contains very little sex and old-fashioned violence.

Copyright The Washington Post

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