I'll be among the first to admit that Timothy Dalton is a fine actor. But giving a solid performance has little to do with being a good James Bond, and, as accomplished as Dalton is, he's a failure as 007 in The Living Daylights (to give him credit, he does improve in Licence to Kill). This is a below-average-to-adequate story with a weak villain, terrible acting, and a workmanlike score from John Barry (in his last stint to date as Bond's composer). There are three energetic action sequences, but they're not enough to save this film from bottoming out as the worst entry in the series, beating out Octopussy and Live and Let Die by a hair's breadth...Dalton plays Bond too straight -- stylish, cold, and without a trace of humor. The argument for this kind of performance is that it more closely resembles the 007 of the novels, but, after fourteen films, the cinematic Bond has evolved far from what his creator envisioned. This fourth "official" incarnation is lacking in the one critical ingredient that made Bond so popular with fans across the world: a personality...It's perhaps too easy to blame this movie's failure on Dalton, but he's part of the problem. The script writers got themselves straightened out for the next film, Licence to Kill, but for Dalton, it was too little too late. It would require a six year layoff and another actor change before 007 would regain the form that caused him to soar to worldwide popularity during the '60s and '70s. The series survived The Living Daylights, but just barely.
At a press conference announcing him as the new James Bond, Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton looked painfully shy -- a look that carried over into his portrayal of Agent 007 in The Living Daylights. Dalton, a fan of the early Sean Connery Bond flicks, had researched the part by rereading all of the Ian Fleming novels. What he discovered was that the Bond in the books was far less suave and flippantly deadly than he was deadly serious and occasionally vulnerable. That was compatible with the new direction producer Cubby Broccoli wanted to take Bond films...If Timothy Dalton felt any insecurity at all following in the footsteps of Connery and Roger Moore, he had to feel even more insecure knowing he wasn't Broccoli's first choice. Pierce Brosnan was, but couldn't take the part because of his Remington Steele television contract. To Dalton's credit, like the NFL back-up quarterback who's sent into the game with less expectations that he'll help the team than hopes that he won't do anything to hurt it, he lets the strong script and Indiana Jones-style action sequences carry the movie...Some Bond films bog down because of a fuzzy plot or poor pacing, but this one, filmed on location in Gibraltar, Morocco, and Austria, is a rollicking ride full of amazing action, gadgetry, and stunts from start to finish. In fact, action fans may find this one super-underrated -- a real sleeper.
DVD, Widescreen, Aspect Ratio 2.35:1, English, French, Spanish, Subtitled
John J. Puccio, DVD Town
Dalton brought to the part a strong dramatic presence, a heightened sensitivity...and a decided seriousness.
Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide
Dalton makes an impressive debut as James Bond in this entertaining, globe-trotting spy story...brimming with great stunts and gimmicks...
Luke Y. Thompson, New Times
Sadly underrated Bond entry with an absolutely classic theme tune by A-ha.
Rita Kempley, The Washington Post
A snazzy spy thriller.
Tom Coates, BBC Online
A pure back-to-basics action-adventure spy drama which mostly delivers.