Timothy Dalton — The Intense Bond

Read my overview of the James Bond franchise

Like with Connery, the Dalton films vary wildly in tone. Of course there's only two of them, so no grand generalizations are possible. While the movies should be kept on different shelves at the video store, not so Dalton's performances. His Bond is the same even if he shouldn't be: angry, obsessed, and either frowning or smirking. And there lies the problem

While Dalton is a fine actor, Bond isn't the role for him. He creates a somewhat more believable character than his predecessors, which is not a compliment. Bond isn't believable by his nature. James BondThe mistake isn't just with reality, but with what James Bond represents: women want him and men want to be him. But it isn't true with Dalton's version, or at least it isn't true to the extent that it was with Connery and Moore. This Bond isn't having a good time.

Some critics and fans, noting this Bond's darker side, have declared him to be edgier, but they've missed the boat. He's not edgier; he's just grumpier. What made Bond something different was his happy, unapologetic sinning. This Bond isn't much of a sinner. He's an old-style hero with anger issues. His Pride has slipped into vanity, and while he can spot a fine wine, he's too driven to enjoy the expensive toys and consumables that come his way. He's nearly Humorless and as for lust, he's a proper role-model in the age of AIDS. Swell.

Keep in mind, we are grading on a curve, so compared to normal humans, he's a wild, freewheeling letch who's having a great time killing people. It is compared to Bonds that he comes off as overly serious.

The Dalton films are:


The Living Daylights

The Devil Says

See It

Dalton may be intense, but The Living Daylights isn't. It has the tone of a Moore outing, with globe-trotting adventure and plenty of jokes. There are stunts galore, and the normal collection of improbable events, including a ride down a snowy mountain on cello-back.

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Average
Killer fish Nope

The regular shenanigans begin during General Georgi Koskovs's defection to The West. 007 spots a beautiful female KGB sniper, but things don't feel right to him, and he lets her live. Later, when Koskov is kidnapped, Bond searches out the girl, Kara Milovy, who turns out not to be an assassin, but a concert cellist and the general's girlfriend. To uncover the Russian's plot and how an international arms dealer is involved, he travels with Kara across the world, ending up in Afghanistan.

Virginia HeyBond films rely on their girls, and this one has a good one in Maryam d'Abo. She's smart and sexy...d'abo that is. Her character is more cute and cuddly. She's family friendly; the kind of girl that might not be fun on the town, but would be great when you took her home to meet mom. Hmmm. Not exactly what I'm looking for in a Bond babe, though it puts her several notches up from the weak screamers and annoying whiners (yes, I'm looking at you Stacey Sutton). It's handy that d'Abo has the goods because she's all we get, or more to the point, all Bond gets. There's no villainous babe to bed and then blow up with a missile, nor is there a hot MI6 operative or spicy civilian chick out for revenge. This is Bond as a monogamist.

General Koskov could have been a great secondary villain if teamed with a strong primary. And arms dealer Brad Whitaker (played by Joe Don Baker, who would return two films later in the reoccurring role of CIA agent Jake Wade) would have been good enough if teamed with some stronger evil-doer. Together they are weaker than the sum of their parts. They aren't too silly nor do they end up as boring, but they aren't memorable either. They're just there.

This might have been a great Bond moviewith some added sexhad everyone realized it was a light romp. Certainly no one told Dalton, who thinks he's in King Lear. As is, it isn't a bad distraction, ending somewhere in the engorged middle of the franchise films.

Following the fads: Safe sex in cinema.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride Bond is Bond, but a little less so. He still runs off Pride, and still likes himself, though he's not having quite as good a time as he used to.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice Money allows you to buy a Stradivarius, go to expensive have a nice swimming pool that attracts the babes.
Gluttony He does know the best wine and gourmet food. Bond goes shopping and shows up with a picnic basket of the very finest.
Wrath This Bond feels Wrath and uses it to push himself. I can't help thinking he'd do a bit better with a bit less, but it is controlled and aimed.

For surrogate cruelty, the film is about average. A lot of peope get shot, and one's tossed out of an airplane.
Beauty Some nice architecture, but less than normal.
Thought Bond's still clever, but he's going by "instinct" more than Thought.
Humor It has its share of one-liners, but Dalton delivers them as if they are a matter of life or death.
Lust Monogamist Bond? Sigh. Maryam d'Abo is cute, but she stays covered. Virginia Hey, of Farscape fame, has her robe ripped off, revealing more than most Bond films. This is the first time a displayed nipple was admitted to be on purpose by the production team (I call lying on that as there is no way they didn't notice the bare breast when Bond ripped the girl's top off in Diamonds Are Forever, but I support lying).

This is also the first Bond with male nudity as their are some bare Russian butts if that's what you like.



Licence to Kill

The Devil Says

Skip It

(Find a real exploitation movie)

I've got no problems with revenge flicks, and when they're rape & revenge, Hell I'm there. But why make a huge budget Bond version of this classic exploitation form? If what you want is a bride being gang raped and murdered while her husband has his leg chewed off, then you need an indie film that can properly sleaze it up, with graphic torture, blood sprays, and lots and lots of breasts. We're in the glorious land of sleaze any way you work it, so you need to indulge. Instead, we get respectful sleaze. What's the point of that?

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Low
Killer fish Yup

Licence to Kill begins with that bride rape/groom mutilation. Since the victims were friends of Bonds, he goes rogue in order to kill the perpetrators, a South American drug lord with bad skin and his collection of degenerates. But Bond isn't on his own; he has the aid of a semi-spy pilot.

Carey LowellDalton's intensity better fits the picture than in his first outing; I suppose that's some kind of a plus. But there's not much else positive I can say, but I'll try. A young Benicio Del Toro ignores that this is a Bond film and goes straight for that level of cheesy-derangement that a rape & revenge movie thrives upon, and Wayne Newton, as a twisted TV preacher/drug dealer, would be amusing in a typical Bond picture. That's about it.

Two thirds of the way through, Licence to Kill tries to return to the series' action roots, with fantasy semi-driving. Did you know you can dodge a missile and do a wheelie in a semi? It's fine stuff in a movie that isn't taking itself seriously, that is, in a different film. Hey, but maybe I'm wrong and this is a light fluffy flick. After all, It all comes out OK with a downright chipper Felix Leiter (that's the groom) smiling at all the good news. Wow, with his wife just raped and murdered, he's one cold bastard. I guess Bond didn't have to get all vengeful since Leiter didn't care.

Licence to Kill fails as adventure by going the gritty exploitation route, and fails as exploitation by being too timid. In a real exploitation rape & revenge film, the hero wouldn't meet someone at a bar with go-go dancers, but at a strip club with plentiful tits and asses and maybe a pussy or two. A guy wouldn't have his heart cut out off screen, and the whipping would be front and center. And in a real Bond flick, there would be no rape, no dive club, no whipping, no leg being chewed off, and, I'm afraid, no Dalton.

Following the fads: Villainous South American drug lords (the '80s did love its drug lords). Rape & revenge movies. The newest round of televangelists.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride In a huge departure, this Bond is broken.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice There is the signs of wealth, but it is all under the control of the bad guys, and they are a very slimy bunch. These are not the folks you want to be like.
Gluttony Nada.
Wrath Bond is motivated by anger, but I don't see that making him a better agent. It just makes him act without thinking.

There is all the normal Bond surrogate cruelty All the normal Bond stuff, plus some added brutality that caused ratings problems. If you want to see someone's leg bitten off in a Bond film, this is the one for you. It's too mild for the subject matter, but extreme for Bond.

The killings are a bit more satisfying than normal (that's how revenge movies work), and the number two babe having her ass whipped peaked my attention.
Beauty Nada. A low point for the franchise.
Thought Nada.
Humor There aren't a lot of gags in rape & revenge flicks and this Bond doesn't even know what a joke is.
Lust Well, at least Dalton's Bond actually notices women this time. And both the bond girls are attractive.



My Other Bond Reviews

The Connery Films
The Lazenby Film
The Moore Films
The Brosnan Films
The Craig Films

Buy It





Bond Girls

The Living Daylights
Maryam d'Abo: Kara Milovy
Virginia Hey: Rubavitch
Licence to Kill
Carey Lowell: Pam Bouvier
Talisa Soto: Lupe Lamora




Maryam D'Abo

Looking better than she does in  The Living Daylights.



Carey Lowell

Not a screen capture from Licence to Kill.