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The Living Daylights


The Living Daylights (1987) is the fifteenth entry in the James Bond series and the first to star Timothy Dalton as the fictional MI6 agent 007. The film’s title is taken from Ian Fleming’s short story, “The Living Daylights”. It was the last film to use the title of an Ian Fleming story until Casino Royale (2006).

The beginning of the film resembles the short story, in which Bond acts as a counter-sniper to protect a Soviet defector, Georgi Koskov. He tells Bond that General Pushkin, head of the KGB, is systematically killing British and American agents. When Koskov is seemingly snatched back, Bond follows him across Europe, Morocco and Afghanistan.

The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli, his stepson Michael G. Wilson, and his daughter Barbara Broccoli. The Living Daylights was generally well received by most critics and was also a financial success, grossing $US191.2 million worldwide.

Plot

James Bond is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov, covering his intermission escape from a concert hall in Bratislava. During the mission, Bond notices that the KGB sniper assigned to prevent Koskov’s escape is a female cellist from the orchestra. Disobeying his orders to kill the sniper, he instead shoots the rifle from her hands, then uses a gas pipeline to smuggle Koskov across the border in to Austria, then on to Britain. In his post-defection debriefing, Koskov informs MI6 that the KGB’s old policy of Smert Spionam, meaning Death to Spies, has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. Koskov is later abducted from the safe-house and assumed to have been taken back to Moscow. Bond is directed to track down Pushkin in Tangier and kill him in order to forestall further killings of agents and escalation of tensions between the Soviet Union and the West. Although Bond’s prior knowledge of Pushkin initially leads him to doubt Koskov’s claims, he agrees to carry out the mission when he learns that the assassin who killed 004 (as depicted in the pre-title sequence) left a note bearing the same message, “Smert Spionam.”

Bond returns to Bratislava to track down the cellist, Kara Milovy. He determines that Koskov’s entire defection was staged, and that Milovy is actually Koskov’s girlfriend. Bond convinces Milovy that he is a friend of Koskov’s and persuades her to accompany him to Vienna, supposedly to be reunited with him. Meanwhile, Pushkin meets with arms dealer Brad Whitaker in Tangier, informing him that the KGB is cancelling an arms deal previously arranged between Koskov and Whitaker.

During his brief tryst with Milovy in Vienna, Bond meets his MI6 ally, Saunders, who discovers a history of financial dealings between Koskov and Whitaker. As he leaves their meeting, Saunders is killed by Necros (Koskov and Whitaker’s henchman), who again leaves the message “Smert Spionam.”

Bond and Milovy promptly leave for Tangier, where Bond confronts Pushkin. Pushkin disavows any knowledge of “Smert Spionam”, and reveals that Koskov is evading arrest for embezzlement of government funds. Bond fakes Pushkin’s assassination, inducing Whitaker and Koskov to progress with their scheme. Meanwhile, Milovy contacts Koskov, who tells her that Bond is actually a KGB agent and convinces her to drug him so he can be captured.
James Bond and Kara Milovy in Vienna.

Koskov, Necros, Milovy, and the captive Bond fly to a Soviet air base in Afghanistan, where Koskov betrays Milovy and imprisons her along with Bond. The pair escape and in doing so free a condemned prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen. Bond and Milovy discover that Koskov is using Soviet funds to buy a massive shipment of opium from the Mujahideen, intending to keep the profits with enough left over to supply the Soviets with their arms.

With the Mujahideen’s help, Bond plants a bomb aboard the cargo plane carrying the opium, but is spotted and has no choice but to barricade himself in the plane. Milovy drives a jeep into the back of the plane as they take off, and Necros also leaps aboard at the last second. After a struggle, Bond throws Necros to his death and deactivates the bomb.

The film concludes with Bond returning to Tangier to dispatch Whitaker, as Pushkin arrests Koskov.

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