Digging Double Oh Seven: License To Kill (1989)

As I mentioned the other day, I really enjoyed Timothy Dalton’s first outing as James Bond in The Living Daylights. Well, as it turns out, his second and last Bond flick is even better. Much like classic comic book characters who have lasted decades, the great thing about James Bond is that you can take the essence of his character, add some new layers to it and put him in just about any setting or situation and just watch what he does. This time around, the filmmakers seemed to be going for a completely different kind of Bond movie. Instead of the adventure turning personal as they sometimes do, the main thrust of this movie is about Bond getting revenge for his friend Felix Leiter who got fed to sharks for arresting gangster Franz Sanchez. Afterwards, Bond tells M he wants to go after the now-escaped Sanchez (he bribed a Fed) but M tells him that’s not his new assignment. Instead of doing what M says, Bond makes a break for it and starts investigating matters on his own. Heck, even the opening scene is different because you’re not seeing the end of one mission leading into another, you’re seeing Bond helping his friend catch a bad guy that directly leads to the two parachuting into the wedding (the only way Bond should ever go to a wedding, really). I mentioned in my review of TLD that Dalton brought an interesting below the surface intensity to the role that hadn’t been there with such force previously. He really gets to work with that this time around. Watching the movie, you never once forget that he’s pissed off at his friend’s assault and wants revenge.

But don’t think this is a Bond movie completely without it’s little joys. Q shows up at Bond’s hotel room and hooks him up with some gadgets, but also gets to play field agent a bit for only the second time in the series (the first was in Octopussy) which is always a hoot. Desmond  Llewelyn brought such charm to these movies. I still miss him even though John Cleese is a good replacement. The movie also features one of the more able Bond girls in Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier. Sure she has a thing for our hero, but she also manages to pull her own weight for possibly the first time in the series. It also helps that she’s a strange mix of adorable and sexy that draws one’s attention to the screen. The film also has it’s fair share of action scenes, two amazing ones bookend the movie and involve everything from drugs and planes to gas tankers and fire, just to give you an idea.

I also had a good time celeb-spotting in the movie. Sanchez is played by now-veteran character actor Robert Davi and his henchman Dario is a young but super-intense Benicio del Toro. Twin Peaks‘ Ed Hurley better known as Everett McGill plays the turn-coat federal agent. The gorgeous Priscilla Barnes has a small part I don’t quite want to ruin. And other character actors like Grand L. Bush, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Frank McCrae, all dudes you would recognize after checking them out on IMDb, I guarantee.

Finally, it was fun watching the shark and fish warehouse scenes because those bits were taken from the book Live And Let Die, which I have actually read. I mentioned it earlier, but I think it would be cool for someone to edit together parts from existing Bond movies that create a more faithful adaptation. Fun stuff. I haven’t read the IMDb Trivia on this movie yet, so I’m curious to find out why Dalton didn’t come back and what lead to the longest gap between Bond movies yet. More on that next time!

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