Dalton's The Living Daylights is one of my favorites. Dalton, a much maligned Bond, debuts in this movie and replaces the cheeky Moore with a darker, more brooding soul.
In the pre-9/11 world, I loved this movie for two reasons. First, I remember seeing this movie as a young teenager in the theater. After speaking to many Bond fans, I have come to the conclusion that a fan's favorite Bond actor and movie depend in large part on who played Bond when the fan was between the ages of ten and fifteen. Thus, the baby boomers preferred Connery, their children preferred Moore (or Dalton), and the Generation Y'ers prefer Brosnan. During these formative years of male adolescence, whichever Bond actor was on the big screen became the default "best" Bond actor. All fans have a special connection with the first Bond movie they saw in the theater, most likely while he was between ten and fifteen years of age.
(In future posts, I will explain why contrary to my theory, Moore, not Dalton, is my favorite Bond.)
The other reason I enjoyed this movie so much was because of the Aston Martin chase scene in snow covered Czechoslovakia. From the wheel-mounted laser gun that could cut a Lada police cruiser in two to the outriggers that deployed on the ice-covered lake, the V8 Vantage beat out the DB5 as THE Bond car in my eyes.
But with our liberation of the Afghans from the Taliban and the recent rise of insurgent fighting, The Living Daylights gives us another glimpse into our utter failure to study and learn from history before marching our bravest men and women into the line of fire. Not even the vast and well-equipped Soviet war machine was able to control Afghanistan in the 1980s. Back then, a rag tag, but well financed army of mujahadeen, armed and supported by wealthy Saudis and the United States government, slowly but surely, handed the dejected and humiliated Soviets a painful defeat.
The American and NATO coalitions in Afghanistan are re-living exactly what the Soviets went through. Throughout the entire war, the Soviets were unable to gain much of a foothold outside Kabul. This is eerily akin to the present situation, in which Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been mockingly described as the strongest president of Kabul. What Western powers fail to realize, despite millenia of lessons filled with misadventures in Afghanistan, is that the land and its people are impossible to control.
Many Muslim men around the world responded to the call for jihad against the atheist Soviets. Some were poor, uneducated, naive men seeking glory, adventure, and a respectable job. Others, who were from wealthier backgrounds, simply wanted to show their bravado and feed their blood thirsty egos. In the movie, this was the Oxford-educated Kamran Shah. In reality, this character could have easily been Osama Bin Laden.
In just a span of a decade, the U.S.' mujahadeen allies became the U.S.' enemies. No amount of troops, financial aid, or programs to eradicate poppy crops will solve the conflict. The crisis is so vast, entrenched, and complicated, not even James Bond can help.
God Save the Queen.