The Living Daylights (1987) was the first James Bond movie to star Timothy Dalton, who seemed more self-absorbed and had less natural wit than Sean Connery, George Lazenby or Roger Moore before him.
Only the beginning of the film’s plot had anything to do with Ian Fleming’s short story “The Living Daylights,” which was published in the Sunday Times on February 4, 1962. In the story Bond is assigned to help a colleague named “272” escape East Berlin by eliminating a KGB assassin named “Trigger” trying to prevent it. Bond sets up his shooting position on the edge of the border where 272 is supposed to cross. Bond spots a beautiful blonde cellist who is part of a visiting orchestra, who turns out to be Trigger. But 007 cannot bring himself to kill her, so he only shoots her weapon from her hands, allowing 272 to make his crossing. For his action, Bond hopes that M will not take away his 007 status.
Given the story’s starkness, there’s no gourmandism exhibited, only mention of his drinking Haig & Haig Scotch before going to his shooting perch.
The film version reverted to earlier form by avoiding so much of the gadgetry and outer space fantasy of recent Roger Moore episodes, spending more time on the characters themselves in exotic locales. It begins with a chase scene in Gibraltar with Bond fighting on top of a truck and escaping by parachute onto a yacht in the sea below, where a woman in a bikini drinking Champagne is speaking on the phone, saying “All the men here are so boring,” just as Bond lands, pours himself a glass and checks in with MI6 on her phone.
Bond is assigned to help KGB General Georgi Koskov to defect, but finds the KGB sniper assigned to prevent Koskov from escape is a beautiful cellist in Bratislava, then part of Czechoslovakia. The concert hall is actually the Volskoper in Vienna.
Bond shoots the rifle from her hands and smuggles Koskov out. Bond brings him to an MI6 safe house at Blayden House, bringing along a hamper from Harrod’s Food Hall of caviar, foie gras and Bolllinger RD, for which Koskov says, “As Russians say, hearts and stomachs good comrades make.” . When Bond’s superior, M, gets the bill, he is shocked. Bond explains, “the brand on the list was questionable, sir so I chose something else.”
Koskov tells MI6 that the Russian spy sector SMERSH has been re-activated by General Leonid Pushkin. He is then re-captured by a Russian agent at Blayden House, and Bond is sent to kill Pushkin in Tangier, where he finds that Koskov’s defection had been faked.
Bond returns to Bratislava to find the cellist, Kara Milovy (Maryam D’Abo), is Koskov’s girlfriend. She agrees to go with 007 to Vienna to kind Koskov. They are pursued by Soviet agents on skis until they can cross the safe border into Austria.
Meanwile, Koskov meets arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) at his villa (using the Forbes Museum as a location) in Tangier to cancel a KGB arms order. In Vienna Bond and Kara meet at the Café Prater in Prater Park and they go on the same Ferris wheel used in The Third Man movie. They then stay at the Hotel Im Palais Schwartzenberg in Vienna and attend a Mozart contest at the Palace Theater.
He meets an MI6 colleague named Saunders who tells of the Koskov-Whitaker connection and then is killed by a SMERSH henchman named Necros. Bond and Kara fly to Tangier and meets Pushkin at the Île de France Opéra Hotel. Bond meets Felix Leiter onboard a boat outside the marina, where Felix pours them Jack Daniels.
Pushkin manages to get Bond to join him in getting Koskov, but also tells Kara that Bond is actually a KGB agent and gets her to drug Bond’s martini (made with Stolichnaya) in his suite. Koskov and Kara, fly the captive 007 to a Soviet air base in Afghanistan, where Koskov betrays Kara and imprisons her with Bond. They escape and free another prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen, who is fighting Koskov for stealing profits from an opium sale, which Koskov will use to buy arms from Whitaker.
With the Mujahideen’s help, Bond plants a bomb aboard and hides in a cargo plane carrying the opium. The Mujahideen attack the air base on horseback, and Kara manages to drives a Jeep into the plane’s cargo as Bond takes off, but he is attacked by Necros and manages to throw him from the plane. Bond activates the bomb and drops it out of the plane and onto a bridge, helping the Mujahideen against the Russians. Just as the plane crashes into a mountain, Bond and Kara escape in the Jeep with a parachute. Upon landing in the desert, Bond sees a sign for Karachi and says, “I know a good restaurant in Karachi.”
Bond and Felix return to Tangier to kill Whitaker, and arrest Pushkin to be sent back to Moscow.
Later, Kara is the solo cellist in a Vienna performance, where Bond meets her for a romantic evening.