Review: He Disagreed with Something that Ate Him

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James Bond, as conceived by author Ian Fleming, is a suave but professional secret agent who doubles as an assassin. He is cold, detached and is, in Fleming’s words, “an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”

I have always said that Timothy Dalton’s portrayal as James Bond was the closest to the literary Bond and that both ‘The Living Daylights’ and ‘Licence to Kill’ are underrated inclusions in the 007 franchise. Therefore, I was very pleased to find, and read in one sitting, this short but fascinating book written by film lecturer Cary Edwards PhD who dissects, analyses and gives his very erudite, educated and entertaining views and positive thoughts on both films and Dalton’s performance within.
It is less a ‘behind the scene/making of’ publication and more of a paper/thesis on all aspects of the two films, Dalton and the Bond legacy. The chapter on ‘Context’ covering both cinematic and political, I found very interesting.
The Dalton era was unfortunately short lived but it was a watershed moment in the development and eventual re-packaging of the Bond we know and love today. I would highly recommend this book to both film scholars and Bond fans and also congratulate Cary Edwards for championing Dalton’s all to brief, but in my personal view impactful and unforgettable, tenure as James Bond 007. I have also thought to write briefly on Timothy Dalton as a James Bond for my readers.

Timothy Dalton:

Timothy Dalton is a British actor. He was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, United Kingdom. His father Peter Dalton Leggett was a Captain at Special Operations Executive during Second World War. His American mother Dorothy Scholes was of Italian and Irish descent. As a teenager, he was a member of the Air Training Camp at LXX (Croft & Culcheth) Squadron. He decided to become an actor at 16 after seeing a production of Macbeth and got a role in a production of the play at The Old Vic.

“It pleased everybody on my father’s side of the family. My mother and her side, however, were worried. None of them felt acting was a secure profession for a young man.”

Dalton quickly moved to television, working mainly with the BBC, and in 1968 made his film debut as Phillip of France and in The Lion in the Winter. After a few more films, Dalton took a break in 1971 to concentrate on the theatre, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and other troupes throughout the world. He played Prince Barin in the science fiction film Flash Gordon (1980) and played Mr. Rochester in a BBC serial of Jane Eyre (1983). 

He was a candidate for James Bond for years before he was actually cast. He was offered the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), after Albert R. Broccoli saw him in The Lion in Winter (1968), but he felt he was far too young for the role at 24. He was offered the role again in Live and Let Die (1973), but he felt too daunted about replacing Sean Connery. When it seemed that Roger Moore would be serious about retiring in the early 1980s, he was seriously considered to star in For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985).

He is a U.S. Citizen through his American mother

The Living Daylights:

Dalton’s portrayal is, in fact, perhaps the closest in any of the films to the character as Ian Fleming wrote him in the novels. He gave the interview on the Premier of The Living Daylights in 1987, in which he says that “I have studied all the novels of Ian Fleming and his several materials on the character of James Bond. He cited this scene of Dr.No, as the essence of Bond Character.

Timothy Dalton took the character Ian Fleming had written on paper and play it on the screen.

After all, Bond’s essential quality is that he’s a man who lives on the edge. He could get killed at any moment, and that stress and danger factor is reflected in the way he lives, chain-smoking, drinking, fast cars and fast women.”

The opening sequence of The Living Daylights is till today, one of the best ever.

Commender tells three officers of The SSG (Special Services Group) of the Royal British Army that your job is to penetrate radar installations at Gibraltar without being caught as security has been put on full alert.

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Cinematographer had taken a tremendous shot from the back side of the paratroopers. Making it look more natural. The persons which have visited Gibraltar, knows that it’s surrounded by an ocean. The cameraman took exact image of the corner land piece surrounded by the sea. Shooting of the movie had been on actual real location.

All the SSG members wore a special combat uniform with military jackets. The moment paratroopers land on ground, death in shape of assassin is waiting for them. Among three officers, first get caught by the security guard. Second was trying to reach his target by roping for mountain climb. Third one, our hero bond was trying to fold his parachute. The second officer was underway his climbing and the villain cut his rope. The moment we heard the noise of officer being thrown out of mountain is actually first time camera opens up of close shot on Bond.

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We must appreciate the hard work done on styling and shaping James Bond. Here, director and editor have taken back to back shot of bond. Especially, the one with jumping monkey is to let audiences introduce with fresh look of bond in high spirits. Eventually, the villain kills more guards and try’s to depart the scene. With the nature of never let enemy escape, bond runs and jump on villain’s Jeep. After chase actions scenes with bullets and punches, Bond finally lands on a yacht and meet beautiful model.

The Living Daylights was the final Bond film to be scored by composer John Berry. The soundtrack is notable for its introduction of sequenced electronic rhythm tracks overdubbed with the orchestra—at the time, a relatively new innovation.

The movie was written and produced during the Cold War era. So, in Living Daylights a KGB officer defected and escape with Bond help. Defector informs MI6 that the KGB’s old policy of ‘Smiert Spionam’, meaning ‘Death to Spies’, has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB.

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Like every Bond film, heroine role of the movie is played by charming actress Maryam d’Abo. Bond finds out that Kara Milvoy (Maryam) is actually girlfriend of the defector and the whole story was staged by the KGB to confuse MI6.

Bond meet Kara and persuade her to come with to meet with her lover. Here, with his exclusive Aston Martin V8 Bond plays some dynamic stunts and explosions. Bond and Kara both safely reach Austria. Here as Bond was meeting with his colleague a KGB assassin kills M16 agent with the same massage “Smiert Spionam”. The story goes deeper into more government embezzlement, drama and chase.

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Interesting part of the movie is when the captive Bond and Kara both reached Afghanistan at Soviet Military Base Camp.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 and buy Western arms from Whitaker.

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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. Meanwhile, the Mujahideen attack the air base on horseback and engage the Soviets in a gun battle. During the battle, Milovy drives a jeep into the cargo hold of the plane as Bond takes off, and Necros also leaps aboard at the last second. After a struggle, Bond throws Necros to his death and deactivates the bomb. Bond then notices Shah and his men being pursued by Soviet forces. He re-activates the bomb and drops it out of the plane and onto a bridge, blowing it up and helping Shah and his men escape the Soviets.

Licence to Kill:

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A new darker more gritty version of bond is introduced to us in license to kill and makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience

The Writers and Producers of 007 series wanted realistic style, as well as showing the “darker edge” of the Bond character. Several locations were selected and Producers decided to shoot movie in “tropical” area.

Opening sequence of the movie is as incredible as it’s predecessor. Bond looks awesome in married gown. Cinematography on shooting the dangerous helicopter and plane scene is hard to perform.

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This time Bond is attending a friend’s wedding who is a CIA agent Felix Leiter. DEA agents collect both the MI6 Bond and CIA Felix to help them arrest drug lord Sanchez. They finally arrest Sanchez.

Unfortunately, Bond came to learn that Sanchez has escaped. Upon hearing this, he ran to his friends home and find friend missing. His friend’s newly bride brutally killed and raped. Bond discovers Leiter’s maimed body in a room. Attached to the body is a note that reads:

He Disagreed with Something that Ate Him

Bond burst into tears as his all emotions got broke with this personal tragedy. Starting after the titles, film shows that this time there is no international conspiracy but a personal tragedy for James Bond.

When MI6 refuses to approve Bond going after Sanchez, he splits from the agency, and embarks on an unsanctioned mission. Bond teams up with Leiter’s friend Sharkey (Frank McRae) and tracks down Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), a marine biologist using his fake seaborne research activities as cover for importing Sanchez’ drugs. Bond then joins forces with pilot and former agent Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), and they travel to Isthmus City to try and infiltrate Sanchez’ operation. But the drug lord owns the town, including the bank and the casino, and even with the surreptitious help of Q (Desmond Llewelyn) it will not be easy for Bond to take down a complex drug manufacturing and exporting business, which Sanchez is about to expand to Asia.

In his fifth and final outing as Bond director, John Glen veers the series towards a darker, more violent place. While not new to the action genre, introducing more brutal elements to Bond gives Licence To Kill an interesting edge. One man dies by exploding on-screen due to sudden depressurization, another is devoured by a shark, and a third is crunched up by a giant shredder. There is plenty of visible blood and gore compared to the usual sanitized Bond adventure, as both Glen and Dalton grit their teeth and leave their final bloody marks on the series. The result is a more serious tone, consistent with Dalton’s rather humourless persona.

Licence To Kill is also distinguished by being one of the few missions in which Bond is the driving force, prompted into action by the need to impart personal revenge. He decides to go after the empire of Sanchez to seek frontier justice on behalf of Felix and Della, breaking with direct orders from M, without the usual “two weeks time off” wink and a nudge approval. Far fetched as it is, Bond’s seething anger creates a different emotional resonance to the movie.

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Like every other Bond movie, Villain Sanchez got a strong role and he look like a real living figure. The actor also put his all energy in doing justice with the role. Both of the Bond Girls are an addition to film entertainment. Underwater shooting was ahead to its time.