Soundtrack Review: The Living Daylights

Composed and Conducted by: John Barry

When Roger Moore finally left the 007 series, a confusing search ensued for the new James Bond. Timothy Dalton was first chosen, but a television series he was working on prevented him from accepting the role. Pierce Brosnan was then hired, but the TV show he was on decided that he could attract viewers now that he had been announced as James Bond. By the time Brosnan was forced from the film, Timothy Dalton was easily available. The Living Daylights presented a more realistic and less comedic Bond, with less one-liners and no super-weapons. However, the villains are still out to cause global chaos, their plot being to start a world war through the Russian-Mujahidin War in Afghanistan.

This would end up being John Barry’s last 007 film, and it’s a fitting exit for him. This time there are no less than three songs that provide themes for the film. “The Living Daylights”, sung by the Swedish band a-ha, is a very exciting opener, trying to emulate the success of Duran Duran’s “View to a Kill”. I think I like Duran Duran’s song better, but this is still a cool piece. Although the main tune was provided by John Barry, he only uses it three times throughout the entire score, its most well known appearance being “Hercules Takes Off”.

The other two songs get much more play in the score. Barry ends up using the tunes from the other two songs, created in conjunction with the Pretenders and sung by Chrissie Hynde. “Where Has Everybody Gone?” is heard on the headphones of the assassin Necros during the film. This villainous song’s tune primarily serves both as a theme for henchman Necros, but in effect is just an awesome action theme. “In-Flight Fight” is its longest appearance. The tragic and longing “If There Was a Man” houses a pretty good love theme for the film’s Bond girl Kara, and plays over the end credits. It gets a pop version in “Into Vienna”.

James Bond’s theme appears much more than it did in A View to a Kill. In order to underscore Timothy Dalton’s somewhat darker and more realistic portrayal, Barry creates a hard-edged version of the theme using electronics in “Ice Chase” and “Exercise at Gibraltar”. This is one of my personal favorite versions of the James Bond theme, and it’s too bad Barry never returned to use it a little more.

Aside from its fantastic set of strong themes, Living Daylights has plenty of good tracks. “The Sniper Was a Woman” mixes romance and suspense well. “Mujahidin and Opium” is in the vein of Barry’s usual romantic fare, with a bit of desert percussion in the background towards the end. “Airbase and Jailbreak” starts off downbeat, but breaks into an awesomely heroic melody. “Afghanistan Plan” features Necros’ theme in a more subdued form while “Air Bond” is a soaring fanfare. The only underwhelming track is “Final Confrontation”, which starts off well with the James Bond theme, but dives into dull suspense.

The Living Daylights is simply one of the easiest and most exciting James Bond scores to listen to and competes for the spot of my number one favorite. It has a great collection of themes, plenty of exciting action, nice fanfares, and a kick-ass version of the James Bond theme. It’s nice to know that John Barry concluded his tenure on the series with such a great performance.

Rating: (score) 10/10 (original album) 8/10

Tracklisting

  1. Living Daylights (sung by a-ha) (4:16)
  2. Necros Attacks (2:04)
  3. The Sniper Was a Woman (2:30)
  4. Ice Chase (4:05)
  5. Kara Meets Bond (2:47)
  6. Koskov Escapes (2:33)
  7. Where Has Everybody Gone? (by the Pretenders) (3:37)
  8. Into Vienna (2:50)
  9. Hercules Takes Off (2:17)
  10. Mujahidin and Opium (3:13)
  11. In-Flight Fight (3:12)
  12. If There Was a Man (by the Pretenders) (2:54)
  13. Exercise at Gibraltar (6:22)
  14. Approaching Kara (2:21)
  15. Murder at the Fair (2:22)
  16. Assassin and Drugged (2:43)
  17. Airbase and Jailbreak (4:37)
  18. Afghanistan Plan (3:34)
  19. Air Bond (1:46)
  20. Final Confrontation (1:58)
  21. Alternate End Titles (3:20)
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