Bonding with Bond, Day 18: Licence to Kill
Community Manager Ryan Fujitani is watching all of the James Bond films in order.
Today we come to the fourth actor to play 007, Timothy Dalton. I found his portrayal to be very different from those of his predecessors, and I liked him in the role.
While there are some nutty elements in the opening scenes of Licence to Kill, it's immediately clear that this would be a darker film. Timothy Dalton returns for his second and final turn as James Bond, surveying every situation through cold, narrow eyes, and the central villain, Franz Sanchez (played by Robert Davi aka the guy who tried to kill the Goonies) makes a menacing debut, executing his girlfriend's lover-on-the-side and brutally whipping her for her transgression. So when the scene ends with Bond and Leiter parachuting down to Leiter's wedding ceremony, the shift in tone threw me off.
But once that's over and Maurice Binder's trademark opening credits roll through, we dive right into the story, and more violence ensues. Sanchez, captured for drug trafficking, manages to escape by paying off a DEA agent and subsequently raids Leiter's home, murders his wife, and feeds Leiter to sharks. When the latter took place, I found myself visibly disturbed, not because the special effects were particularly effective, but because I was shocked at the possibility that Leiter would be killed off. He survives, luckily (and yes, unrealistically), and when Bond is denied the opportunity to go after Sanchez, he storms off to embark on what amounts to a revenge story.
This is a striking departure from the plots of previous Bond films, which mainly focused on the ambitious world domination plans of sinister masterminds. Licence to Kill, despite the maturation of its plot into some international intrigue, is pretty much about Bond on a rampage to fulfill a personal vendetta - more evidence of the pure justice that Dalton's Bond seems to embody. And to be honest, I thought that was kinda cool.
Also, I liked the idea of Bond presenting himself as an ally to Sanchez in order to get closer to him. I thought that this storyline was played out realistically. When I wondered what would happen when Bond and Dario (a very young Benicio Del Toro), one of Sanchez's henchmen, ran into each other again, the results were also realistic. In fact, this movie had me in its clutches for most of its duration because I felt that the smattering of classic Bond camp was, for once, welcome relief from the gritty plot.
Robert Davi was excellent as Sanchez, I thought. He's another one of those guys who seems to play villains with a certain relish, like he enjoys being sadistic and manipulative. Though he doesn't have an imposing presence, physically, he's believable as the guy who might not punch you if you insult him to his face, but will smile and wait two weeks until you're attending your daughter's college graduation and send three thugs to gun down your entire extended family while you're celebrating. Talisa Soto was unfortunately terrible as Sanchez's woman, Lupe, and Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, while only slightly more convincing as an actress, made the bravado of her character fun to watch alongside Bond. And it's nice to see Q, lovable old fart that he is, scuttling around and taking more of an active part in the story.
Unfortunately, for me, the film loses steam when Wayne Newton appears as a cult leader, and we are introduced to his pyramid HQ set piece. In a film that seemed relatively grounded in reality and violence, the final scenes felt very out of place to me, and what could have been a great movie ended up being just good. I just wish they could have closed it out much stronger and more consistent with the rest of the film. After an hour and a half of plotting, double-crossing, and manipulation, the last thing I wanted to see was an 18-wheeler doing a wheelie and Wayne Newton fleeing from an exploding pyramid with a bag of money in his arms. It's not that I don't think Bond should be campy; I just don't think it worked so well here.
My favorite line: "Looks like he came to a dead end." -- Bond says this about the double-crossing DEA agent, who's been skewered by a forklift.
My favorite moment: Late in the movie, Lupe bursts into the hotel room where Q and Pam are preparing to leave the Bahamas, and when she confesses to Pam that Bond spent the night with her, Q rolls his eyes and breaks up the inevitable catfight. I just like that Q is sort of a (grand)father figure to Bond. I can picture him feeding pigeons and giving quarters to little kids.
- Day 1: Dr. No (1962)
- Day 2: From Russia With Love (1963)
- Day 3: Goldfinger (1964)
- Day 4: Thunderball (1965)
- Day 5: Casino Royale (1967)
- Day 6: You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Day 7: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
- Day 8: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Day 9: Live and Let Die (1973)
- Day 10: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
- Day 11: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- Day 12: Moonraker (1979)
- Day 13: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- Day 14: Octopussy (1983)
- Day 15: Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Day 16: A View to a Kill (1985)
- Day 17: The Living Daylights (1987)
- Day 18: Licence to Kill (1989)
- Day 19: GoldenEye (1995)
- Day 20: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
- Day 21: The World Is Not Enough (1999)
- Day 22: Die Another Day (2002)
- Day 23: Casino Royale (2006)
- Day 24: Quantum of Solace (2008)