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.
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.
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.