If only Sean Connery’s tenure as Bond had lasted into the ’80s, we could have made some kind of “Gentlemen, welcome to the Rock — of Gibraltar” joke here. Alas. Instead, the action begins with a group of “00” agents parachuting over that storied British base in the Med on a training exercise. And while the jump itself is visually stunning, things quickly go south: an enemy agent has infiltrated the training exercise, and kills two “00” spies and a couple greenshirted extras before making his getaway in an SAS Range Rover. But that villain didn’t count on the presence of Timothy Dalton, making his first surly appearance as James Bond.
Dalton’s sole stage direction in this film seems to be, “don’t do any of the things Roger Moore’s been doing for the past 12 years.” He doesn’t smirk. He doesn’t quip. His eyes don’t twinkle roguishly. When he’s battling the enemy assassin while hanging upside-down through the roof of a partially on-fire Range Rover, he declines to flirt with the female tourist in the car they nearly smash into.
This Bond, at least, has wisely decided to re-pack his parachute, just in case he has to leap out of a flaming car that’s just gone off a cliff high over the Mediterranean. The enemy agent? No such foresight. Bond floats to a safe landing on a bikini-clad socialite’s yacht and barely even leers at her before snatching away her phone so he can inform exercise control he’ll check in in one hour. As the woman proffers a glass of champagne, he pauses briefly, and then says with barely a trace of innuendo, “better make that two.”