Timothy Dalton as James Bond
The Living Daylights (October 13/08)
It's not difficult to see why Timothy Dalton had such difficulties smoothly slipping into James Bond's iconic shoes, as The Living Daylights - the actor's first go-around as 007 - ultimately comes off as one of the most ineffective and flat-out dull entries within the ongoing series. The storyline - which revolves around Bond's efforts at preventing a sinister arms dealer (Joe Don Baker's Brad Whitaker) from starting World War III - has been augmented with a whole host of underwhelming elements, including an almost egregiously uneventful midsection and a sporadic emphasis on melodrama, and it's subsequently impossible to deny that the film often possesses the feel of a run-of-the-mill '80s actioner. Dalton's rugged work as the world's most famous secret agent admittedly fits the tone of the proceedings, yet there's little doubt that the actor is lacking the charisma that one has come to associate from the character. And, as inevitably becomes clear, even if one were willing to overlook the film's various problems, The Living Daylights suffers from an unusually tedious third act - in which Bond fights side-by-side with Afghan rebels - that feels as though it'd be more at home within a Rambo flick. Such antics are exacerbated by the inclusion of an almost uniformly bland series of action set-pieces, although - admittedly - it's hard to deny the effectiveness of Bond's cargo-plane battle with a particularly tenacious henchman (an interlude that unfortunately falls into the too-little-too-late category). The end result is a Bond adventure that has little to offer even the most ardent of 007 fans, as the exceedingly bloated nature of these movies has never been more evident (or problematic) than it is here.
Licence to Kill (October 19/08)
Though an obvious improvement over The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill's egregiously gritty sensibilities ultimately ensure that it often feels more like a typical '80s actioner than a bona fide James Bond adventure - with Timothy Dalton's less-than-charismatic turn as the infamous secret agent exacerbating the film's various problems. The storyline - which follows 007 as he embarks on a campaign of revenge after his friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is viciously attacked by a ruthless drug kingpin (Robert Davi's Franz Sanchez) - admittedly does hold some promise at the film's outset, as it's virtually impossible not to be drawn into the irresistible notion of Bond putting his unique set of skills to use within the realm of pure vengeance. Director John Glen, working from Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum's screenplay, proves unable to reconcile the story's inherently hard-edged elements with the demands of the Bond formula, however, which does ensure that the film is subsequently forced to spend the bulk of its running time uncomfortably straddling the two extremes. That said, Licence to Kill - buoyed by an unexpectedly strong finale - generally comes off as a satisfying (if somewhat underwhelming) Bond flick, with an early turn by Benicio Del Toro as a scenery-chewing henchman certainly standing out as a highlight.