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Soundtrack review: The living daylights (John Barry, 1987)

Film scores James Bond franchise

Soundtrack review: The living daylights (John Barry, 1987)


The 11th and final James Bond score composed by John Barry is my favorite, alongside Moonraker. I also happen to be a fan of Timothy Dalton as James Bond, and it’s sad that he only got to play the agent in two movies. I liked his serious, determined and rarely smiling Bond, compared to the cartoonish Pierce Brosnan Bond. As a film, “The living daylights” is a strong and dark movie, a real spy film without a lot of the James Bond flamboyance. As a score, it brings for the first time in the Bond universe different songs for the opening and closing credits and the blend of electronic and orchestra.
The main theme, the stamp of every Bond movie, is an excellent track performed by A-ha. It’s one of my favorite Bond theme songs; it has everything I want in a Bond theme, and I listen to it quite often. The Pretenders contribute with the closing credits song and also with “Where has everybody gone”, which becomes one of the most important themes of the movie and recurs quite a few times during the score, in the cues involving the character Necros.
As most of John Barry’s compositions, the score is melodic and deep rather than action oriented. I marvel at how beautiful a Bond score can be, at how it can separate itself from the on screen action and fly away into its own dreamy world. The James Bond theme is, of course, incorporated in a few tracks, to keep the identity of the character, in a quieter form.
My favorite themes from this score though are the romantic themes. I get a feeling that regardless of the on screen madness and action, there’s a small cocoon of beauty and romance that nothing can touch. It’s like the image of a beautiful girl sitting alone at a table, reading a book, looking like she doesn’t belong in the world around her and completely oblivious of it. The romantic themes recur in the score depending on who’s on screen or where the action takes place. Kara’s theme is a sweet and gentle flute based leitmotif…The Vienna theme, sweeping and beautiful like a summer afternoon,  makes me think of old holiday themed romantic comedies and also makes me want to take my wife, hop on a plane and only stop in the Schonbrunn Palace gardens…
My favorite theme from this score and, for me, the most beautiful piece of music from the Bond universe (right up there with “Flight into space” from Moonraker) is the Mujahedeen theme. The cue “Mujahedeen and opium” is a superb soft but intense romantic orchestral track, which takes its time to develop and has the feel of a horseback ride in the desert sunset. I dream while listening to a cue like this…
“The living daylights” score has aged very well compared to a lot of Bond scores. It’s still a pleasure to listen to it and enjoy John Barry’s timeless and wonderful compositions.  
My ratings:
Cue rating: 91 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 53 / 77
Album excellence: 79%
Cues to listen to:
The Living Daylights
The living daylights suite
The Sniper Was A Woman
Kara Meets Bond
Koskov Escapes
Into Vienna
Hercules Takes Off
Mujahadin And Opium
Exercise At Gibraltar [Bonus Track]
Approaching Kara [Bonus Track]
Murder At The Fair [Bonus Track]
Assassin and Drugged [Bonus Track]
Airbase Jailbreak [Bonus Track]
Afghanistan Plan [Bonus Track]
Air Bond [Bonus Track]
Alternate End Titles [Bonus Track]
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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