James Bond Retrospective: Licence To Kill (1989)

In 1989, the 007 series was about to take a darker, more violent turn that almost killed the franchise forever.

To mark the 50th Anniversary of one of the most successful movie franchises of all time and with filming complete on James Bond€™s 23rd official outing in Skyfall due for release later this year, I have been tasked with taking a retrospective look at the films that turned author Ian Fleming€™s creation into one of the most recognised and iconic characters in film history. The sixteenth James Bond film, Licence To Kill, had the misfortune of being released in a summer chock full of blockbusting sequels as well as director Tim Burton€™s highly anticipated Batman film. With huge marketing campaigns at their disposal, the likes of Lethal Weapon 2 and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade posed a serious threat to the success of Timothy Dalton€™s second outing as the British agent. With the majority of Fleming€™s original titles used for the film series already it was decided that this film would be a wholly original adventure for the character only using a plot point from Live And Let Die and a character from short story The Hildebrand Rarity as inspiration for the film. Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson once again provided the screenplay however with a strike by the Writers Guild of America causing a delay, the script was still unfinished by the time the cameras started rolling. Initially titled Licence Revoked, it was eventually changed during post production when it was feared that many people might not understand the meaning of the word revoked. A decision was made to maintain the real world style of previous film The Living Daylights and as part of this grounding in reality and in part due to Dalton€™s darker approach to the character, the violence in the film would become more graphic and as a result the film was given a 15 certificate, the first time a Bond film had been rated higher than the family friendly PG certificate. James Bond Dalton€™s Bond in Licence To Kill is a much more stripped down Bond than before. It is a back to basics approach, one that served Roger Moore well in For Your Eyes Only, with less emphasis on gadgets and a stronger focus on the man himself. With a story that sees Bond motivated by revenge, this is a side of the character that has rarely been given a chance, overshadowed by a duty to Queen and country rather than a personal mission to avenge a brutal attack on his friend. This is a Bond that questions the authority of his superiors, refusing to embark on a mission to Istanbul when he still has unfinished business in Florida, offering M his resignation to be able to continue on his personal vendetta.

Classic Line

M: This private vendetta of yours could easily compromise Her Majesty€™s government. You have an assignment, and I expect you to carry it out objectively and professionally!

James Bond: Then you have my resignation, sir!

M: We€™re not a country club, 007! Effective immediately, your licence to kill is revoked, and I require you to hand over your weapon. Now. I need hardly remind you that you€™re still bound by the Official Secrets Act.

James Bond: I guess it€™s, uh....a farewell to arms.

Dalton is excellent in the role, developing the tougher Bond after The Living Daylights giving him real depth and plausibility. It is a shame that this proved to be his final time as the iconic agent as it was not until Daniel Craig took over the role seventeen years later that we would see this hard edged Fleming faithful approach to the character again.

Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.