The Living Daylights
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Living Daylights can be found here.

All of the James Bond movies are based, in some part, upon novels or stories by British author Ian Fleming [1908-1964]. The title, The Living Daylights, comes from the short story The Living Daylights, included in Fleming's 1966 posthumous anthology, Octopussy and the Living Daylights. The short story was the source for the early scenes in which Bond assists with the defection of a KGB officer and avoids killing a female sniper whom he knows to be an amateur. The remainder of the film is from an original screenplay crafted by American screenwriters Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum.

What Bond movie is this?

The Living Daylights is the 15th film in the EON Bond film series and the first to feature Timothy Dalton as James Bond, 007.

Who sings the title song?

The title song, The Living Daylights, is performed by the Norwegian pop group a-ha. They'd enjoyed a large amount of success a few years before with their song Take On Me which featured a groundbreaking conceptual video.

When Bond fails to kill the female sniper set to shoot defecting KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), and is accused of purposely missing her, Bond explains that she was obviously an amateur and adds that his shooting the rifle out of her hands must have scared the living daylights out of her.

The pre-credits opening shows Bond and two other 00 agents on exercise maneuvers on the Rock of Gibraltor. 002 and 004 are killed by a KGB assassin who leaves a note saying, "Smiert Spionam" (Russian for "Death to Spies"). After the credits, Bond is in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia since 1 January 1993) where he is to assist in the defection of KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) and narrowly diverts an assassination attempt by pretty cellist Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo). Bond returns to London and attends a briefing with Koskov and the heads of MI6. Just after Koskov informs them that the new head of the KGB, General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), has reactivated SMERSH and has ordered the assassination of certain secret agents, Bond included, the building is infiltrated by KGB assassin Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), and Koskov is "rescued". M orders Bond to kill Pushkin, and sends him to Tangiers in northern Morocco where Pushkin is known to be visiting. On the way to Tangiers, Bond stops in Bratislava where he makes contact with Kara, who turns out to be Koskov's girlfriend and protge, and gets her into Austria by sledding out of Bulgaria in her cello case. During their short stay in Vienna, Bond is informed by an MI6 agent that Kara's Stradivarius cello, given to her by Koskov, was actually purchased by American arms dealer, Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), who is currently residing at his villa in Tangiers. Bond and Kara continue on to Tangiers, where Bond is faced with deciding whom to trust...Koskov or Pushkin? In doing so, Bond and Kara wind up in a jail cell in Afghanistan, right in the middle of the local Mujahideen.

What are the Mujahideen?

In the context of the movie, the Mujaheddin are opposition groups who are fighting against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the eyes of some, they are considered to be insurgents, while others consider them to be freedom fighters. During the Soviet-Afghanistan war of the 1980s, the United States supplied the Mujaheddin with weaponry to fight the Soviets, most notably Stinger missiles, which the resistance used to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships.

Smiert Spionam (meaning "Death to Spies"), when contracted, became SMERSH, a precursor to the KGB created by Lavrenti Beria. Their purpose was to eliminate all forms of treachery, both within the USSR and abroad. SMERSH really existed and operated in Stalinist and post-Stalinist society and is credited with orchestrating the assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940. Beria was executed by Nikita Khrushchev approximately nine months after Stalin's death, and SMERSH died with him. Fleming's early novels featured villains from SMERSH, although General Pushkin says that SMERSH stopped operating some 20 years earlier. This is why M gets so upset when the words start appearing whenever one of MI6's agents is murdered, and General Koskov alleges that Pushkin has reinstituted SMERSH again.

This is one of the things that Bond has to work out. When he takes possession of Kara's cello case, sees that it holds a gun and that the gun holds blanks, he realizes that the assassination attempt was a fraud. Koskov had set Kara up as a fake sniper, knowing that Bond, who was there to protect him during his defection, would kill the sniper. In that manner, Koskov would be rid of Kara, who knew too much. Fortunately, Bond recognizes Kara for an amateur and merely shoots the rifle out of her hands, effectively botching up Koskov's plan.

Koskov's goal was to have General Pushkin, now head of the KGB, killed. Koskov was misappropriating Soviet state funds, and Pushkin was on to him, so Koskov had to get Pushkin out of the way. The assassin in Gibraltar began by killing 004. Koskov then "defected" in order to get the supposed hit list of British and American agents ("Smiert Spionam") to MI6 and blame it on Pushkin, knowing that MI6 would then retaliate for the killings by sending Bond to assassinate Pushkin (Koskov later has Necros kill Saunders to give the British further incentive to kill Pushkin). Koskov would then capture Bond and turn him over to the KGB as Pushkin's murderer. In this way, he could get rid of Pushkin while being seen as a hero by the state.

Pushkin had made a deal to buy arms from Whitaker and had already paid him a staggering $50 million. After watching the money sit in a Swiss bank account for eight weeks and seeing no buying activity, Pushkin was canceling the order. He wanted the money returned within two days. Pushkin had also learned more of Whitaker's history, including his shady & nefarious dealings and that he is less than reputable as an international soldier & businessman.

How did Saunders die?

Necros had rigged the door of the Vienna restaurant so that it would open and close at his command. When Saunders had stepped into the proper spot, Necros used his control device to apply many times the normal amount of pressure to the closing door to crush Saunders. It happens offscreen but the door probably crushed Saunders' chest, killing him. The idea of his being impaled on a large shard of glass seems unlikely since the door shatters into tiny pieces. The assassination was simply a ploy to anger Bond into believing that Pushkin had ordered the hit -- a balloon floats up to Bond a few seconds later that says "Smiert Spionam", obviously sent to the scene by Necros.

The commentary on the DVD says that, in previous movies, General Gogol (Walter Gotell) has always been depicted as M's counterpart, and M would not be working out in the field. Consequently, the General Pushkin character was created to fill that gap. As it works out, Gogol does have a cameo at the end of the movie when it is revealed that he has taken a position with the Soviet foreign service and has arranged for Kara to have free passage into and out of the Soviet Union. This is what allows her and her cello to make a world tour.

How does the movie end?

When Kamran Shah (Art Malik), the leader of the local Mujahideen, learns that Koskov is buying opium in order to turn a profit AND buy arms for the Soviets to use against them, he agrees to help Bond blow up the opium. Bond helps load it on a truck, then climbs aboard to set a bomb, getting trapped there when Necros also climbs aboard and the truck takes off. Kara, Kamran, and the Mujahideen follow on horseback. When the trucks arrive at the airbase, Bond helps transfer the opium onto the cargo plane. As he's about to hop off the plane, Koskov and Necros see him, just as the Mujahideen ride up. They create a diversion, giving Bond time to taxi the plane out to the runway and begin the takeoff. Kara pirates a jeep and tries to catch up, but Koskov and Necros do the same and follow her, their guns ablazing. Bond opens the back end of the plane, allowing Kara to drive her jeep inside. Just as the plane is about to lift off, Necros also jumps on board. With only minutes left before the bomb explodes, Bond hands over the controls to Kara, then goes back into the hold to disarm the bomb. He is attacked by Necros but, after a long and harrowing fight, Bond manages to send him plummeting to his death. Bond disarms the bomb with only one second to spare. He rejoins Kara in the cockpit but notices that the Soviet troops are in hot pursuit of the Mujahideen, so he goes back into the hold, resets the bomb, and drops it on a bridge that the Soviets are crossing. The bridge blows up, killing the Soviets and stopping the chase. When a fuel warning light comes on, however, Bond realizes that errant bullets have made holes in the fuselage, and the plane is rapidly losing fuel. One by one the engines start to go out. With nowhere to land (they're flying over mountains), Bond opens the cargohold door and, just as the plane is about to crash, he and Kara drive the jeep out of the hold, landing safely on the ground. The plane flies into a hillside and explodes. A few days later, Bond returns to Tangiers, sneaks into Whitaker's house, interrupting his game of the Battle of Gettysburg, and informs him that the opium has "gone up in smoke." Whitaker grabs a submachine gun with a bulletproof shield. When Bond has spent all his bullets, Whitaker open fires on Bond, who only narrowly manages to dodge the shots. Bond plants his whistle-operated keychain on a statue of Napoleon and sets off the charge. The heavy statue falls on Whitaker, killing him. Just then, General Pushkin and his men enter the room, followed not long afterwards by Koskov. Koskov makes a big show of gratitude over Pushkin still being alive. Pushkin tells his men to send Koskov back to Moscow "in a diplomatic bag." In the final scenes, Kara is playing a concert on one leg of her World Concert Tour, but she is saddened that Bond is not in attendance. When she goes back into her dressing room, however, she finds him waiting with two martinis...shaken, not stirred.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 2 months ago
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