The Dalton Minimum

Posted: June 12, 2015 in James Bond
Tags: ,

The-Living-Daylights

Fun fact, the Dalton Minimum was a period of reduced solar activity which coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures, so it seems an appropriate title for the coldest of Bonds, even if he also manages to be the angriest of 007s. Volcanoes on the verge of eruption lurk behind Timothy Dalton’s eyes; they’re just really icy volcanos.

I told you I wasn’t necessarily going to do these in order, and whilst there’s an argument for saving the best till last I’m not going to follow it.

Timothy Dalton is my favourite Bond.

There’s a convention applied to Doctor Whos that suggests your first Doctor is always your favourite and I guess the same convention could be applied to Bonds. It doesn’t work for me in either case*, because Dalton was far from being my first Bond, although he was the first I saw on the big screen, and perhaps this provides a smidgen of reason why The Living Daylights is one of my favourite Bond films, and why Dalton’s my favourite 007, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

To a lot of people Dalton is one of the worst Bonds, to many others he’s perceived as the right man at the wrong time and whilst I don’t completely agree with this there is a lot to this argument. Like Daniel Craig he’s perceived as a ‘proper’ actor, and like Daniel Craig his Bond went back to basics, to the character’s literary roots, essaying a much harder edged version of 007 than the man who preceded him (be it Moore or Brosnan). Of course there the similarity ends, because Daniel Craig is lauded for his take on Bond, which has smashed box-office records, whilst Dalton ended up fronting two of the poorest entries in the Bond canon from an inflation adjusted money making perspective (but that list has the borefest that is Thunderball at #2 which tells you everything!)

For me Dalton has all the attributes necessary for being a top drawer Bond. For starters there’s physicality, following on from an aging Roger Moore for the first time in a while 007 actually looked like he could handle himself in a fight. Dalton is a big guy, and has a forceful screen presence. He also has the darkly handsome good looks that one might associate with the character, though he is very different from any of the men who came before him, there’s more than a hint of the raffish matinee idol about him (little wonder he ended up playing such a character in The Rocketeer) and this works to his advantage, because however ruthless he is he always convinces as a romantic lead, and certainly his romance with Kara in The Living Daylights must rank as one of the sweetest relationships in the whole franchise.

Of course Bond’s main focus is problem solving, or more specifically as Dalton puts it in Licence to Kill “more of a problem eliminator,” and he utterly convinces. He’s a man with the steely eyed gaze of a man who’s spent a lot of time staring down the scope of a sniper rifle. He’s cold blooded and ruthless, and when he tells Pushkin that if he believed Koskov …”we wouldn’t be talking,”  you believe him. This is quite clearly an agent comfortable in making a man kneel before putting a bullet in the back of his head, and yet for all that he’s cold blooded there’s a boiling rage just beneath the surface and a disdain for this job that mirrors Fleming’s original character. Take his assertion that if M fires him he’ll thank him for it, or his relentless quest for vengeance in the aftermath of what happens to Della and Felix, this isn’t a man you’d ever want to piss off. Which isn’t to say he’s not vulnerable, this is a Bond who bleeds quite a lot by the end of LTK.

Which brings us, finally, to humour, and the notion that Dalton’s just not funny, which is a trifle ridiculous really, because he is (just see Hot Fuzz if you don’t believe me), it’s just that he’s not Moore/Brosnan or even Connery funny, instead, like Daniel Craig, his wit is dry and understated, unfortunately where Craig is catered for by the script too often Dalton is just handed a Moore’ish pun. He still raises a smile or two though, aided by the twinkle in those steely eyes and sly grin of a man quite clearly in on the joke.

Maybe he plays it a smidgen too straight at times, but frankly so does Daniel Craig and it is odd that people trumpet him for it whilst dismissing Dalton.

And you should never dismiss Dalton…

Three down, three to go!

Bond #001           Timothy Dalton

Bond #002           TBA

Bond #003           TBA

Bond #004           TBA

Bond #005           George Lazenby

Bond #006           Sean Connery

 

*if you’re interested Matt Smith, Peter Davison and Patrick Troughton are currently fighting it out for the #1 spot whilst Tom Baker was my first Who.

 

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Comments
  1. I’m of the ‘right man at the wrong time’ school of thinking there. Though I think Dalton will be reappraised once the 1980s are a bit more distant – right now that decade is far enough away to look dated, without looking stylish. When people get more perspective on the visuals I reckon the films will be reappraised (as will Brosnan’s – and I reckon those won’t come out well from a reassessment).

    My favourite Doctor is Pertwee.

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