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Which is the best movie of the Brosnan era?

GoldenEye 6 54.55%
Tomorrow Never Dies 2 18.18%
The World is Not Enough 2 18.18%
Die Another Day 1 9.09%

The all too brief Dalton era commences with one of my favorite Bond films, The Living Daylights. Watching it now, I got the same exact sense I got rewatching For Your Eyes Only, I was so happy and enjoyed it immensely. I’ve always been a Bond fan, and could watch any of them really, but certain ones just evoke the sense of fun and excitement of watching them back when I was young, and this film certainly did that.

I’ve always been protective of Dalton, who like Lazenby, I think gets dumped on somewhat just because of their short tenures. But I have to say, that Dalton is actually better than I remember. I always considered him the “serious Bond” coming of the more glib Roger Moore, but he actually has some funny bits in his initial outing. I cracked up quite a few times during just the opening after the credits: his devilish smile about their “pipeline” to the West, him slamming the hatch as Koskov screams. He definitely takes the proceedings more seriously than his predecessor, but I think that’s what makes the humor work, a needed release valve from the tension rather than a constant number of jokes and one liners that make it seem as if the stakes are not real.

Making him a one woman man also works to the benefit of the film as he and Kara share a sweet chemistry and the buildup of their relationship seems genuine. Evocative of the love montage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the bits of them traveling around Vienna (gorgeous) and having fun at the carnival allow Bond to develop a deeper connection to his leading lady than we’ve seen in some films. Her eventual siding with Bond over the villain feels earned, and it’s nice the film allowed her to make that choice before she would have been forced into it.

As for the plot itself, I noticed several issues with it that escaped me when watching it years ago. I like the Cold War atmosphere and the introduction of a new head of the KBG that has a past with Bond. This would be the last such film as the series went on hiatus and the Cold War ended. I’m not sure why the head of the KGB is negotiating an arms sale with mercenaries or attending a trade conference other than it gives John Rhys Davies more to do, and he certainly is a welcome presence. There also seems to be some confusion to the timeline as he cancels the deal partly due to Koskov’s defection yet the whole purpose of the defection was to make sure the deal went forward. The defection itself also seems a really convoluted way just to kill Pushkin. These are minor quibbles and didn’t take me out of the plot but they are noticeable.

The action scenes are once again top notch including Bond’s assault on a moving Jeep in the opening, the safe house attack and the battle with Necros dangling from a cargo plane. The action is heightened by the music as both the instrumental versions of the theme song (one of my favorites) and Where Has Everybody Gone are quite infectious. Dalton seems equally at home with the action and the emotional aspects of the character. He can turn from the charming boyfriend to seething with rage at the death of a fellow agent without either of them feeling forced. He decided to wait when previously offered the role because he thought he was too young. I’m glad he eventually did take it because if you didn’t have to choose Connery, he would be my favorite.

I’m going to give The Living Daylights a 7/10. It’s been my personal pick for Dalton’s best for a long time and I don’t see that changing, but we’ll see after the next rewatch. To borrow from a friend, Dalton embodies Bond right from the beginning, an especially difficult task coming off the longest running actor in the role. I wish he had been given more time to make his mark on the franchise. Luckily, what we did get was pretty damn good.

Current Rankings:
1) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
2) From Russia with Love
3) Goldfinger
4) For Your Eyes Only
5) The Living Daylights
6) The Spy Who Loved Me
7) Thunderball
8) Dr. No
9) Octopussy
10) Live and Let Die
11) You Only Live Twice
12) The Man with the Golden Gun
13) A View to a Kill
14) Moonraker
15) Diamonds are Forever

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On to the Brosnan era with Goldeneye now. This is going to get a 7 from me.

This was the first Bond I can actually remember being released in my lifetime (LtK came out when I was about a year old). My introduction to it, of course, was the immense N64 game, which hogged many hours of my childhood. It was sort of weird coming to the film after the game, knowing how the plot worked and seeing where Rare embellished and expanded upon the movie.

Anyway, I've always liked Brosnan as Bond, and this has long been one of my favourites, but it's not striking the same chord this time round. It's got all the right ingredients, with some good stunts, locations and characters, plus a serviceable enough plot, but it doesn't quite come together as I remembered. The music is very hit and miss too. That said, I think the way Bond and Natalya are tied together to the entourage of villains is well done, and there's some interesting dynamics going on.

Although it doesn't quite live up to my memories of it, Goldeneye will always have a special place in my heart.

The Living Day Lights (***Never seen this one before.***)

I really liked the opening training mission scene in Gibraltar. The theme tune is ok, not quite on a par as View to A Kill but another nice 80’s New Wave track.

Not fussy on the new Moneypenny, seems a bit on the young side for the role? Now Felix Leiter has been played 5 other actors and never more than one film each, none have ever been anything special but John Terry seems really miscast here. Joe Don Baker is awful as Brad Whitaker. He’s a decent actor so I’m glad he gets to redeem himself later in Goldeneye as Jack Wade.  But it's not all bad... Maryam d'Abo is wonderful as Milovy and I like Jeroen Krabbé as the sniveling weasel Kosov.

Action set pieces are good but a little bit A-Teamish in parts especially towards the end. Overall, a good start for Dalton’s bond. He’s arguably the most talented thespian to play Bond but has the violent streak that makes him believable in the role. 7/10

Current Top 15:

  1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Lazenby)
  2. From Russia With Love (Connery)
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me (Moore)
  4. Goldfinger (Connery)
  5. Thunderball (Connery)
  6. For Your Eyes Only (Moore)
  7. The Living Day Lights (Dalton)
  8. Dr No (Connery)
  9. You Only Live Twice (Connery)
  10. Live And Let Die (Moore)
  11. Licence To Kill (Moore)
  12. Moonraker (Moore)
  13. The Man With The Golden Gun (Moore)
  14. Diamonds Are For Ever (Connery)
  15. Octopussy (Moore)

Last edited by noir_solitude - on 09 February 2020

And just as quickly as it began, the Dalton era comes to an end. I’ve always wondered what kind of films we would have gotten had legal issues not come up and Dalton had continued in the role for longer. Sadly we only get these two as he decided to move on when the next film was finally able to move forward. While it’s not as good as its predecessor, Licence to Kill is still a sold entry in the Bond canon in spite of the fact that it feels less like a Bond film than almost any film since perhaps Live and Let Die.

As Moore’s first film was heavily influenced by the blaxploitation films of that era, Dalton’s swan song is very reminiscent of the action films of the 1980s. Bond had always walked that balance between debonair spy and action hero. The films directed by John Glen definitely upped the stunt work game, but the action always felt secondary to the story. Here, on a quest for revenge on behalf of his longtime ally Felix Leiter, the plot seems to have little bearing other than to link the action scenes that were written into the script. Dalton makes you feel his seething hatred for Sanchez and his bloodthirsty need for revenge, but it never rises above being more than a plot decide to propel the story. Even at the end, Leiter seems in quite good spirits for a man who lost his wife and a leg.

Bringing back David Hedison as Leiter was a smart play as it’s a character we’ve already Identified as Leiter so the audience is more invested in the story. It helps that he was also one of the better actors in the role. Imagine if it was the Leiter from Diamonds are Forever again. Shudder. What would have been more interesting is to see a Bond taking more risks, getting a little sloppy as he’s so focused on revenge, his normal skills not at their peak. Instead he lucks into situations were Sanchez, a man who prides himself on the loyalty of his underlings, begins to doubt and subsequently dispatch said underlings.

What does work is the expanded role for Desmond Llewelyn’s Q as he ventures into the field to help Bond in his vendetta. His pouting when Bond sends him away and his immediate delight when asked to stay a little longer are highlights for longtime fans. His best scene is easily when he casually throws one of his gadgets into the bushes after spending years admonishing 007 for not taking proper care of his work. It doesn’t hurt that he’s wearing a comical fake mustache at the time. Llewelyn is a series treasure and I’m so glad they wisely chose not to replace him until he tragically passed away.

I wish I could say the same for the replacement M and Moneypenny. Robert Brown is capable enough but when he’s barking at Bond it just doesn’t carry the same weight as when Bernard Lee could cower him with a glare. Caroline Bliss was a poor substitute for Lois Maxwell and is given little more than a cameo here. Her and Dalton had no real chemistry so it was no real loss they had no interaction here. As for the Bond girls, I always like Lupe better than Pam Bouvier. Both actresses are fine, but Lupe felt like she sizzled with Bond more. Bond and Pam barely exchange a few sentences before jumping in the sack and her jealousy of Lupe through the rest of the film feels lacking and rather immature for a Contra fighter pilot.

I’m going to give Licence to Kill 6/10. A better than average entry that feels like it could have used a few more passes on the script. An unhinged, reckless Bond would have been a sight to see. The action is still quite good for the series, with the tanker chase at the end being one of the more interesting final assaults on the big bad. I like the theme (not as much as the previous two) but it feels like the music in this film took a backseat to everything else. We now close out the classic Bond era and look to see what regeneration he takes when he pops up six long years later.

Current Rankings:
1) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
2) From Russia with Love
3) Goldfinger
4) For Your Eyes Only
5) The Living Daylights
6) The Spy Who Loved Me
7) Thunderball
8) Dr. No
9) Licence to Kill
10) Octopussy
11) Live and Let Die
12) You Only Live Twice
13) The Man with the Golden Gun
14) A View to a Kill
15) Moonraker
16) Diamonds are Forever

Scores updated to this point!

I'm a bit behind in the Brosnan era...hoping to do a double feature this long weekend.

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Licence To Kill

***Never seen this one before***

Opening scene is a bit far fetched. It good to have David Heidison back as Felix, he’s been the best amongst a bunch of middling rivals in the Felix role.

Theme song is ok, Gladys Knight has an amazing voice but the track lets her down.
Great cast of 1970’s and 80’s supporting players – Everitt McGill, Frank McRae, Grand L Bush, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

This is quite dark, I’m not sure this would have worked with Moore or Connery, but it certainly suits Dalton style.

Not too fusy on Carey Lowell as Bouvier, Talisa Soto makes up for it though.

Like the villains here, something TLDL lacked, Davi and Del Torio both evil and stylish.

The final scenes with the fuel tankers do become a bit repetitive and could have been slimmed down.
I’ve really enjoyed Dalton, shame issues caused the hiatus and eventual replacement.

I think LTK and TLDL are on a par with each other, The Living Day Lights starts better and is helped by a brilliant Bond girl in D'Abo. But it suffered as it went on with weak villains. Strangely Licence To Kill starts weak, has a disappointing Bond girl but it has great villains and a really enjoyable edgy second half.
I reckon Licence To Kill just shades it. 8/10

I've gone well into my 30's without ever seeing a Dalton Bond so kudos to this rewatch for getting me to seek them out (plus the charming For Your Eyes Only). We'll not mention Octopussy though!

Tomorrow Never Dies. Well, this pleasantly surprised me. I'd have had this as a 6 beforehand, but now, it's at least a 7. Falls short of an 8, but it certainly shades Goldeneye, (which I'd have definitely ranked above it before this). I was tempted to put it at an 8, but then it'd share billing with OHMSS and TSWLM, and it's not quite there (curse the lack of half marks!)

This tends to be quite an overlooked Bond, but I found it to be largely enjoyable from first minute to last. Aspects of the plot are quite topical, and Carver is detestable - a ruthless and powerful figure whose lack of compassion certainly mirrors parts of the mainstream media that I'm familiar with. I can see why some might find him a little feeble, but he is exactly how I'd picture a media mogul in his position (aka a shithouse hiding behind masses of bodyguards and henchmen). Brosnan is very much in the groove as Bond, and Wai Lin is a grade A bad ass Bond girl (certainly up there as one of the best). There's some really cool stunts (I particularly like the bike chase scene and the remote control garage scene) and some amusing dashes of humour (even if the sexual innuendo is on the nose... a cunning linguist?!)

Biggest negative is probably the theme song. I like Sheryl Crow a lot, but some of the notes she hits aren't pleasant to the ears.

I’ve long maintained that Pierce Brosnan was the best Bond after Connery and that GoldenEye was easily his best film and one of the best of the franchise. This may be due in no small part to the fact that GoldenEye was the first Bond film I saw in the theatre. I was 11 years old and had been watching the older Bond films for a few years. But GoldenEye was my first true Bond experience and Brosnan was MY Bond in that regard. However I will admit right at the start that I was a little underwhelmed by GoldenEye for this rewatch. Looking back at Moore’s For Your Eyes Only and Dalton’s The Living Daylights (what I consider to be their respective best films) I was genuinely happy and even excited rewatching them. I never really got that feeling with GoldenEye.

I spent a good portion of the first half of the film questioning the plot. Outside of maybe Thunderball, I don’t know if Bond have ever been more convenienced into a villain’s scheme. He happens to run into Xenia on the road, who happens to steal the helicopter and then the GoldenEye. It doesn’t kill the film but much like on the Thunderball rewatch it takes you out of the film when the narrative doesn’t flow more naturally. I also thought they made Brosnan’s Bond a little too quippy. There’s a one liner every couple of minutes almost like he’s parodying himself. I did laugh when the film pokes fun at this facet when he starts to say he’s a little tied up but quickly cuts himself off with “never mind”.

I still thoroughly enjoy Brosnan as Bond. Whereas with Dalton you could feel the emotions under the surface, Brosnan feels like a rogue with a sophisticated polish. More apt to engage in a brawl then reason out of a situation. He engages in a few hand to hand combats that were sadly lacking in the Moore and Dalton eras. I particularly enjoyed the scuffle with the deckhand utilizing a towel as a weapon. He lets little emotion out either intentionally or unwillingly. I felt more could have been mined from 006’s betrayal but for Brosnan’s 007, it comes off little more than a mild annoyance rather than grappling with the treachery of such a close friend.

Not to say that 006 is not a great villain to kick off the Brosnan era. Sadly I don’t think he’ll get another of such high caliber. But it was genius to have a darker version of 007 be the main antagonist. Even if his plan seems a little convoluted, the fact that he knows Bond’s methods and tactics lets him stay one step ahead of the hero without having Bond make foolish mistakes just to make the villain seem powerful. The film picks up considerably when Bean makes his reappearance and he and Brosnan play very well off one another.

The film also does a fine job of populating the supporting cast of MI6 for the first time since the Connery era. Judi Dench is fantastic as the new M, mining conflict with Bond as a bureaucrat who thinks he’s a relic of the Cold War while still being smart enough to know when Bond is a necessary tool to be used. They have grudging respect for one another but there is realistic tension between them. Samantha Bond as the new Moneypenny is also a great addition. Sadly I think they devolve her character as the films go on and she never is as strong or as witty as here. And of course, Desmond Llewelyn stays on as Q providing a crucial link to the classic era and just generally being beloved by all.

I’m going to give GoldenEye a 7/10 which is still strong for the series however I’ll probably rank it below some of the other 7s I used to put above it. Coming off a six year hiatus, Bond makes a welcome return to the silver screen, but the issues that were becoming more emblematic in the 80s really hit their peak in the 90s. Bond is little more than a gun toting action hero rather than a secret agent. He massacres countless Russian soldiers and drives a tank through St. Petersburg. Admittedly I probably enjoyed those bits as a kid but they seem out of place in the franchise when viewed as a whole. It’s not done to excess here but you can almost see how the Brosnan era ends up as it does as they start to sacrifice believability for spectacle more and more.

Current Rankings:
1) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
2) From Russia with Love
3) Goldfinger
4) For Your Eyes Only
5) The Living Daylights
6) The Spy Who Loved Me
7) GoldenEye
8) Thunderball
9) Dr. No
10) Licence to Kill
11) Octopussy
12) Live and Let Die
13) You Only Live Twice
14) The Man with the Golden Gun
15) A View to a Kill
16) Moonraker
17) Diamonds are Forever

Happy to be jumping in with Brosnan, but sad that I missed Dalton. I've been doing a bit of a rewatch of my own with #FromFebwLove on my film blog -

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I just saw Octopussy. Man, I am late on the schedule.

I don't really have that much to say about this one, honestly. It's probably the weakest Bond movie so far. The slapstic and action scenes look like they came straight from Disney's Aladdin (hell, there are jokes that are pretty much the same), the villains are forgettable, their plan makes little sense, and overall I was pretty bored while watching it. This movie is as by the books as a Bond movie can be, and while following the Bond formula is expected, they play it as safe as possible.

3/10, I was bored throughout.

At times like this I really miss Goldfinger. It has a massive asspull at the end, but the rest of the movie flows wonderfully. It still frustrates me to no end they couldn't make a rewrite or fix the scene so that the betrayal made more sense, but what can you do.

You know it deserves the GOTY.

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