Dalton’s second and final appearance sees him seeking revenge after Felix and his wife are attacked by Robert Davi’s druglord Sanchez. Refusing to abandon the search, his licence to kill is revoked and he’s discharged from MI6, leaving him to continue on his own.
It’s sad to think that this is Timothy Dalton’s final appearance already. Brief though his tenure was, he had all the hallmarks of a great Bond. He’s handsome and genuinely charming, whilst also managing to tackle the darker material with dramatic flair and gusto. He’s quite possibly the series’ finest actor -he was a proper thesp after all- and was able to breathe life and depth into a character that had become a hideous cartoon caricature.
Although Licence to Kill was criticised on release for deviating from the usual formula, on reflection there’s still a lot of great stuff here. It may not be the equal of The Living Daylights, but it commendably tries to grapple with some weighty material. Granted it’s a bit ham-fisted, but an attempt to do something different is always welcome, especially in a franchise that had gone as stale as this one. It was the first, and is still currently the only, film in the series to have a 15 certificate; courtesy of an exploding head and Benicio Del Toro getting fed into a grinder. Director John Glen, who had helmed all the Bond’s from For Your Eyes Only up to this point, claims that this was his favourite.
It’s maybe a bit too grim at times, closer in theme to Craig’s Bond perhaps but without the superior film-making heft behind it to pull it off. The occasional flashes of greatness are enough to keep it afloat though; most notably a plethora of memorable action sequences which help to pick up the pace when it begins to drag. From the showstopping, OTT aerial opening sequence to the thundering tanker chase at the end, Bond really has his work cut out for him. Yet it’s the little moments of humanity in-between which really impress. When Felix’s wife Della goes to give Bond the bridal flowers after their wedding, he looks at her with a pained expression, before declining and walking away. ‘He was married once’, comments Felix. It’s one of the few instances where Bond’s tragic marriage is alluded to, and it’s this instance which is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all.
Throw in a bunch of well-known faces, including Robert Davi, Benicio Del Toro, Everett ‘Twin Peaks’ McGill and, erm, Wayne Newton, and Licence to Kill is at least one of the more memorable additions to the series. Hats off to Timothy though, perhaps he was too just too mature for a series that had grown so childish. With Pierce Brosnan on the not-too-distant horizon, Bond may get flashier, but he’s rarely -if ever- this likeable.
Bond theme: Gladys Knight’s bombastic theme harks back to Shirley Bassey, but with a slightly more 80s flavour. The song itself even samples the opening bars of ‘Goldfinger’, but slowing it down gives it a moody vibe to echo the film’s darker edge. Still convinced she’s singing ‘Licence to Kilt’, though.
Best one liner: Not really a one-liner as such, but it’s clear that they had fun with their A Farewell to Arms pun when Bond’s licence to kill is revoked at the aptly named ‘Hemingway house’. Also technically a cheat as it isn’t him, but the note left on Felix’s torso -‘he disagreed with something that ate him’ – sounds like a douche-baggy type thing Bond would say. Touche.
Glamorous Locations: Being the first Bond film not to utilise its spiritual home Pinewood studios, all of the filming took place outside of the UK in Florida and Mexico. After attending Felix’s doomed wedding in the Bahamas, Bond travels to the fictional republic of Isthmus in Central America to face-off against Robert Davi’s druglord Sanchez. His ‘Olympiatec Meditation Institute’, an impressive building with a huge courtyard, was actually the Otomi Ceremonial Center; a place of cultural significance for the indigenous Otomi people of Mexico.
Girls: Dalton is somewhat of a cad here, intermittently fooling around with ex-CIA agent Carey and Sanchez’s sultry girlfriend, Talisa. The romances seem a little shoe-horned in, and it can certainly do without the jealousy inflected love-triangle which emerges. Felix’s wife Della is quite taken with him too, to the point where you’re not even sure that it’s Felix she wants to marry. ‘It’s customary for they wife to kiss the best man’ she says before snogging him. Aye, okay then.
Gadgets: Bond’s pretty tooled up here. Not a stranger to dressing up as animals for camouflage, this time round he dons a manta-ray costume to sneak on board a boat. He also has a camera gun with built-in palm reader, which he uses to try and assassinate Sanchez, and some plastic explosive toothpaste complete with cigarette detonator. To top it off, he has some rappel rope hidden in his cummerbund, because of course he does.
Classic moment: There are lot of impressive stunts dispersed throughout, but most notable is the takedown of Sanchez’s aeroplane in the pre-credits sequence. A pre-cursor to Bane’s aerial shenanigans in The Dark Knight Rises, this sees Bond lowered down from a helicopter and hooking the plane beneath to capture it. Successful, he and Felix parachute into his wedding in the church down below. Show-off.
Low Point: There is no particular low point of note, however there’s not really any need to show a woman getting repeatedly whipped to show how bad the villains are. We kind of got that already with the whole ‘killing Felix’s wife and then feeding him to a shark’ thing.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… GOLDENEYE