Why I Love: Licence To Kill Chris Faers March 9, 2022 Editor's Choice, Features, Why I Love 5415 Everyone has had that conversation – who is your favourite Bond? Most justifiably favour Sean Connery, some prefer Roger Moore and then there are those with a fondness for Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig. But along with George Lazenby, who could’ve gone onto be a great Bond if fate had played out differently, Timothy Dalton is often just seen as a stopgap who kept Bond’s shoulder holster warm for a couple of years. After all, Dalton only got the role after Brosnan’s contract on Remington Steele was picked up and forced him to drop out of the role. I genuinely struggle when asked the aforementioned question, however one thing I always do is state a case for Dalton. Many laugh when I do this, despite how few of those people have actually sat down and intently watched his two entries into the series, and I simply come back by asking them to describe what makes Daniel Craig such a good 007? Apart from the obvious traits you associate with any portrayal of 007, most describe Craig’s Bond as brooding, cold, ruthless, physical, dark, cynical and vulnerable. To which I end up replying: You’ve just described Dalton – only he did it first. In fairness, Connery also had many of these traits in his armoury, but largely pre-Goldfinger and not to the extent that you immediately associate them with his representation of the character. This type of hard-hitting Bond is very much a product of the new millennium and a reaction to the way spy films have evolved post-Bourne, however this guise of 007 has never been displayed more effectively than in what would end up to be Dalton’s last appearance as the super spy. To many devoted 007 fans, Licence to Kill is largely appreciated for just being a great thriller and the fact it’s a Bond film is an added bonus. But having said that, the plot itself, although contemporary considering the drugs scene in 80s, is very much a nuts and bolts, one-man-army, story of revenge which sees Bond go rogue in an attempt to track down and kill drugs baron, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) after mauling Bond’s trusty C.I.A. companion, Felix Leiter (David Hedison becoming the first actor to reprise the role). Dalton’s first film, The Living Daylights, was a solid, if unspectacular entry into the series, but it was largely hindered by acting as a bridge between the end of the tongue-in cheek Moore era and the realistic, edgy direction they wanted to take the series with Dalton. For purists and casual viewers, Licence to Kill is too much of a departure; a somewhat controversial entry at the time when it was released with a not-so-family-friendly 15 certificate, becoming the first and only Bond film to achieve an age rating higher than a 12. It escaped the foundations Goldfinger established, the formula The Spy Who Loved Me perfected and trimmed the fat. This was the lean, mean, grounded Bond the filmmakers wanted to take into the 90s. Add to fact LTK hit cinema screens in the summer of 1989 amongst the likes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon II, Dead Poet’s Society and Batman, it’s of little surprise LTK failed to find its audience. The series would go into development hell for six years, the longest gap between two Bond films, due to rights issues between the various companies involved, although many film-goers at the time put the absence of another Bond adventure down to the lukewarm reception of LTK. Even though LTK is a departure, it retains the elements we all know and love: an exciting opening which immediately helped set the darker tone (Sanchez orders his henchmen to cut out a man’s heart before violently whipping his lovers back), an enjoyable if somewhat dated Bond theme from Gladys Knight, Davi on the top of his game as the villain of the piece, full of charm and genuine menace, and Benicio del Toro (in his first film role) is having a ball as Sanchez’s main henchman. Perennial favourite, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is given a larger role than usual, sneaking off to South America to assist 007 in his personal vendetta. It is rather ironic Q is given more screen time in a film that doesn’t involve Bond using the usual Swiss-Army-car or watches with lasers, but it’s nice to see him get out of the basement. Although adding this plot point is largely a necessity as we only see London for a moment in one scene outside M’s office. Both Bond girls, the alluring Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) and brassy Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), are more than a couple of pretty faces as their respective characters are worked into the story, with both showing strength and vulnerability. Although, despite it being a staple of the series, it’s disappointing to see how quickly and easily both get physically involved with Bond. One of the most interesting elements of LTK is the obvious influence Die Hard appears to have had on the filmmakers, which was released the year prior to great success and acclaim. Directing his fifth and final Bond film, John Glen heightens the level of blood and violence, integrates a villain straight out of the front pages who doesn’t live in a hollowed out volcano lair with aspirations of world domination and a strips down his hero, making him rely on his wit and brawn, not Q’s arsenal of gadgets. Not to mention, we have Die Hard’s Michael Kamen brought on to rip-off his own score, to great effect I might add, and a reunion of Johnson and Johnson, no relation, with the unfortunately named Grand L. Bush joining the cast alongside Davi. Even during the opening scenes 007 has to forgo his trusty PPK and is given John McClane’s Beretta. As good as it is, LTK is far from perfect; it could easily lose 15 minutes from its running time, there’s an unnecessary subplot about stinger missiles, we don’t see the variety of lavish locations you associate with the series and there are a couple scenes which verge on ridiculous, such as the truck doing an impossible wheelie through a wall of fire. In fairness, we’ve seen far worse in other Bond films (invisible Aston Martin, anyone?), but when you set a realistic tone, you need to maintain it throughout or risk a scene standing out like Roger Moore’s safari suit. But when it comes down to it, these are easily overlooked flaws and every single Bond film has them due to the varied nature of the series and its audience. But in terms of what is the best out-and-out film in the franchise, LTK is right up there with the likes of Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me, Skyfall and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Up until the Craig era, LTK was, and perhaps still is, the truest incarnation of Ian Fleming’s 007, making it somewhat of a travesty the film continues to dismissed as nothing more than a pub quiz answer. Having said that, I can appreciate why LTK may not appeal to the casual viewer and why most people cannot look past Sean Connery as James Bond, but at the very least, LTK deserves a second chance.