Licence To Kill

Licence To Kill (1989) Director: John Glen

★★☆☆☆

Licence To Kill finally ends my venture through watching all the James Bond movies (as of October 2020)! Licence To Kill is a significantly darker film in contrast to the Roger Moore era. It is the second and final Bond film to star Timothy Dalton. While the movie leaves something to be desired (and it was one of the lowest grossing Bond movies), Dalton delivers a welcome performance as a ruthless assassin, which is closer to what Ian Fleming initially had in mind for the character. The acting in the movie is odd and disengaging, however the plot is a significant improvement from some other Bond movies.

Licence To Kill opens in the Bahamas. Felix Leiter, Bond’s American CIA counterpart, is getting married. At the same time, the DEA is hunting down a notorious international drug dealer named Sanchez (played by David Ravi), who is violently disemboweling a man who has slept with his girlfriend. Sanchez’s righthand man is Dario (played a young Benicio del Toro) Felix and Bond are intercepted by the DEA and they capture Sanchez in a dramatic mid-air stunt in which Bond leaps from a helicopter to attach a cable to Sanchez’s plane. Felix and Bond arrive at the wedding moments later. However, Sanchez soon escapes from a secured heavily armored DEA vehicle when his incognito henchman takes control and drives it off a bridge. They escape with full scuba gear. Sanchez takes vengeance on Felix, who is fed to a blood-thirsty shark who severs his leg, and his wife, who is raped and killed. Bond finds Felix barely surviving in a body bag. Bond finds the shark tank and discovers a secret drug trafficking ring, and shortly thereafter M arrives and instructs Bond not to continue (he removes Bond’s license-or ‘licence’- to kill). Thus, Bond goes rogue on a personal vendetta against Sanchez. He goes undercover, infiltrates Sanchez’s ring as an assassin, and sabotages them from the inside. Q secretly provides Bond with some gadgets, unbeknownst to MI6. Bond also encounters a CIA named Pam (played by Carey Lowell). He convinces Sanchez that one of his compatriots has betrayed the drug business (Bond covertly plants money to convince Sanchez) so Sanchez gruesomely depressurizes the man’s escape pod causing his head to expand and explode. Sanchez takes Bond to his chief cocaine distribution center, meanwhile Sanchez grows increasingly paranoid, killing many of his associates, and in the end Bond double-crosses Sanchez and blows up his transportation trucks while lighting Sanchez on fire, thus satisfying his personal vendetta.

Several scenes in the film inspired Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” Trilogy, such as the plane capture in mid-air, or the DEA van being run off a bridge in an underwater escape. It would be terrific if Nolan would direct a Bond movie one day. Gladys Knight performs the halfway-decent theme song reminiscent of “Goldfinger.”

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