A Darker Bond (A Licence to Kill)

After my comments on Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of the James Bond character and alluding to later Bond films in my previous blog post on the 1983 Bond Film Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery, I was inspired to watch A License to Kill(1989). While this was the last bond film of the 80’s, it also was the last bond film to be directed by John Glen and was Timothy Dalton’s last film as Bond.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, unlike the Bonds before him, (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore), Dalton’s Bond emphasized a much more stalwart, singular, and emotionless character that translated into a much darker Bond. In part, this was also due to the toning down or loss of the traditional suave charisma that the bonds before him exemplified.

A Liscense to Kill  arguably has one of the darkest plot lines in the Bond series that also uncovers previous unknown facts about Bond’s character, such as that he was once married.

This is one of the first bond films where the inhuman, brutal actions of the drug-cocaine underworld are exposed. We are first introduced to the main villain, Franz Sanchez in a scene where he orders his lackey’s to cut out a man’s heart, while he proceeds to masochistically whip Lupe, his love interest, for her infidelity.  However, this initial scene is merely foreshadowing the violent and grotesque events that unfold later in the film.

The story begins with Felix Leiter, Bond’s best friend, and Bond on their way to Felix’s wedding with Bond as his best man. On their way to the wedding, DEA agents inform Felix that a wanted Drug lord, Franz Sanchez, is in the Bahamas and they have an opportunity to catch him. After the attempted bust fails and Sanchez attempts to escape in a small Cessna prop plane, Bond and Felix pursue after him in a coast-guard helicopter. Once they’ve caught up with the plan, Bond harnesses himself to a cable and rappels down to the plane below them, attaching the cable around the tail of the plane, effectively pulling the plane of the would-be escaping drug lord vertical. All the while remaining completely expressionless.

Sanchez Captured

 

Despite the being captured, Sanchez manages to bribe his way out and escape, later returning to seek his revenge. After Felix’s wedding, Felix and his wife Della are assaulted.   Della is implied to be raped and then killed, while Felix is lowered into a shark tank and is badly mutilated by a great white, losing a leg. Following these events, Bond seeks his revenge on Sanchez by infiltrating his operations in an attempt to assassinate him. After the destruction of Sanchez base, the film concludes with a cinematic chase involving oil tanker trucks, which results in their crashing and both Bond and Sanchez being covered in petrol. The following clip is how Bond narrowly is able to survive and exact his revenge.

Licence to Kill End Scene

As I watched A Licence to Kill, I was stunned by how noticeable of a change in direction the Bond films took in the 80’s. Having watched all the bond films when I was younger, I distinctively remember being more disturbed by Dalton’s Bond and his films having a much different impression on me than the previous and later bond films. It is clear though that James Bond films typically resonate with the decade they are released in. As is evident by the focus on the drug underworld during the boom of cocaine usage in the United States during the 1980’s.

80’s Bond Turmoil! (Never Say Never Again)

Not only was there significant changes in interest rates that resulted in a volatile financial bond market, but there also were drastic changes occurring within the acclaimed James Bond film franchise in the 80’s!

The 80’s marked not only the third decade for the James Bond film series, but also a a clear shift in the direction and vision of the bond films when John Glen became the new director of the series from 1981 to 1989. One of the more noticeable and often criticized changes that were noted by bond fans was the loss of style, suaveness, and overall established character of Bond, for the adoption of what has been stated by critics as a “workman” style/persona portrayed by director John Glen’s Bond.

 

As an avid Bond fan growing up and still to this day (Not a fan of the Craig films),  I feel that Roger Moore who starred in the earlier 80’s films, stayed true to the established persona of Bond, while the late 80’s Bond, Timothy Dalton added a new, somewhat darker and more direct take of Bond’s character.

 

Interestingly, in 1983, a non EON productions (The studio that produced all bond films to that date) Bond film was released. Never Say Never Again(1983) was directed by Irvin Kershner (Director of The Empire Strikes Back) and starred the return of the original Bond, Sean Connery! This surprising deviation in the Bond film saga competed directly with the release of Octopussy(1983) by EON productions. This conflict was dubbed, “The battle of the bonds” by entertainment media.

 

As mentioned, Never Say Never Again(1983) was produced by an independent production company that was completely separate from EON Productions, which had been the producer of all previous bond films to date. However, the script for Never Say Never Again was written by Kevin McClory, one of the three original writers of the Thunderball who retained filming rights of the Bond novel following a long-drawn out legal battle that occurred in the 60’s.

Surprisingly, after 12 years since his “final” role as Bond in Diamonds are Forever(1971), Sean Connery returned as bond in Never Say Never Again(1981) despite saying he would “never again” play the role of James Bond. Quite ironic to say the least! One can only wonder if the title of the film is a reference to the reluctant short lived return of Connery as the role of Bond.

Appropriate to the length of time since we have last seen Sean Connery as James Bond, Never Say Never Again’s story revolves around an aging Bond who is brought back into action to investigate the disappearance of two nuclear weapon which appears to the work of SPECTRE, a global terrorist organization within the bond universe in the novels written by Ian Flemming.

Despite Never Say Never Again‘s deviation from the original Bond production company, the film held it’s own in box offices and today is regarded as apart of the official Bond series/plot-line. In the future, I wonder if we will see the equivalent of perhaps Pierce Brosnan returning as Bond in competition against Daniel Craig? Something tells me this is highly unlikely, yet unfortunate. Thoough you never know!