The Living Daylights

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Story publication year — 1966
Film release year — 1987
007 – Timothy Dalton

The fourteenth book (short story, see below) and fifteenth film.  This was an interesting comparison initially, because the film and the story share a single common sequence.  In the story, this sequence is the entire story.  In the film, this sequence is simply the starting point leading to a far more complicated plotline.

In the book, Bond in Berlin on a sniper mission to stake out a no-man’s land between the East/West borders to ensure the safe passage of a defector/double agent from East Berlin across the border into West Berlin.   Bond faces an almost identical task in the film, only the relevant events take place in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  The difficulty is that the KGB also knows that the agent plans to defect and the border point where he intends to make his run.  Bond’s mission is to take out the KGB’s sniper before he (or, as it turns out, she) can get a shot at the agent before he can be exfiltrated.

In both the story and the film, 007 sequesters himself inside an apartment across from the patch of no-man’s land.  In the story, as Bond is setting up his rifle, he sees a women’s orchestra enter the Soviet building directly opposite his position and makes particular note of a beautiful blond cellist.  In the film, Bond takes position across the street from an opera house, where the defector is watching a concert before his escape through a bathroom window at intermission.  In both, Bond is assisted by a “by the book” career agent (Captain Sender in the book; Captain Saunders in the film) who gets under his skin.

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The story features rising tension as Bond waits each night for several days for the defector to make his move.  Finally, as the man darts across the “dead zone” Bond sees his KGB counterpart through his rifle scope and is stunned to realize the Soviet assassin turns out to be the stunning blond cellist he had admired.  The film takes an identical turn.  In both, Bond makes a last second decision to spare the blond sniper by deliberately missing the kill shot, getting close enough to simply ensure that the blonde cannot get a shot off herself.   Also, in both, 007 rebuffs Captain Sender’s/Saunder’s threats to report Bond to the Head of Station for deliberately missing his mark by explaining that he “scared the living daylights” out of he.

The book ends there, with a somewhat melancholy 007 musing about how he would welcome the loss of his double-0 number and thinking about how the blonde had “much the same job in her outfit as he had in his.”  The film, by contrast, is really just beginning. While in the book the exfiltrated agent is hurried away in a waiting car, in the film Bond finishes the exfiltration by smuggling the Soviet defector (General Georgi Koskov) through a Q-devised capsule that takes Koskov through the Trans-Siberian pipeline into Austria.  From there, we learn that Koskov has actually double-crossed Mi6 and is part of an international arms smuggling scheme that Bond must take out.  Another key difference: in the story, Bond never again will see his KGB sniper counterpart and he assumes that he shot off her left hand and that she will face court-martial back in Russia; in the film, Bond of course manages to seduce the sniper, who we learn is Kara Milovy, away from the KGB and away from Koskov, who turns out was her previous boyfriend.

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