Review for Licence To Kill
I was planning to watch the two Dalton Bond films back to back, but there wound up being a six month gap between The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. They are my two favourite Bond movies, the only two I’ve ever owned on home video, and consequently the only two I’ve felt the need to upgrade to Blu-ray. It’s a sign of age I guess; I no longer have the stamina to binge watch a franchise. I need to space the movies apart so the characters and story don’t get stale in my mind, so I can come to each iteration of the franchise fresh and appreciative. And quite frankly, Licence to Kill is a treat that I keep for when I’m in the most appreciative mood. It is after all, my favourite James Bond film.
The groom and the best man are late for the wedding, but for Felix Leiter, the chance to capture drug baron Franz Sanchez on the rare occasion he sets foot on US soil is too rare to miss, and of course James Bond tags along, strictly as an observer. Capture completed, they’re only a little late for the wedding, and for Felix and his new bride, a happily ever after. The trouble is that Sanchez has paid bribes to the right people in the US authorities, and the happy wedding is followed by a tragic honeymoon. Now Bond is out for revenge, and he’ll get it, even if he has to go rogue from British Intelligence. He’ll have to take on Sanchez alone, in the city that he owns.
Licence to Kill gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc. Once again, a Bond film has had a Lowry restoration, although in practice I don’t know what that means. It would have been useful to have a before and after featurette to show us what they had done. What I see is a clean, stable print, with a nice level of detail, the light touch of grain that keeps the movie looking properly filmic, and solid, dark detail and decent contrast. If there are moments of slight softness, it’s probably down to the film stock of the period, and the quality of the original source material. Bu you do get the full Bond experience, the globetrotting Technicolor vivid production design, luxury and decadence for the villains, and some fantastic locations.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French and German, and DD 5.1 Czech, with subtitles in those languages, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Dutch. When it comes to the action, the surround is more than capable of immersing you in the mayhem, with explosions and bullets filling the soundstage. It’s just when it comes to the dialogue that the film shows its age, particularly with ADR work lacking a little in fidelity. Licence to Kill has often been accused, particularly at the time, of not feeling like a Bond movie. I think a fair bit of that criticism is justified by Michael Kamen’s score, which pulls away from the traditional Bond elements and instead wears the influences of eighties action movie music too obviously. There’s a little too much Die Hard and Lethal Weapon in this Bond score.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case that boots to an animated menu. Most of the extras will be familiar from previous DVD releases.
You have two commentaries on the disc, one with producer Michael G. Wilson and members of the crew, and one with director John Glen and members of the cast.
Declassified: MI6 Vault
Here you’ll find 9 Deleted Scenes in HD with intros from John Glen. These run to 10:32. You’ll also find four featurettes, 11:43 of interviews in Bond ’89, On Set with John Glen (9:28), On Location with Peter Lamont (5:23) and Ground Check with Corky Fornoff (4:45). These are all in SD.
007 Mission Control is a bit of nonsense, a glossary of terms and characters that plays a clip of the film that is appropriate to the current entry.
Here you’ll find the extras from the original DVD. Inside Licence to Kill: A Documentary lasts 32:01 and is presented in 1080i, with the film footage in HD, the interviews scaled up. Production Featurette: Behind the Scenes lasts 4:57, Kenworth Truck Stunt Film lasts 9:31, Gladys Knight and Patti Labelle offer 8:29 of music videos and all of the latter are in 480i.
Finally you get two trailers and an image gallery.
When it comes to James Bond, the character should be dark and gritty, not the cinematography. I have my issues with the Daniel Craig movies and that is one of them, some silly writing would be another, and the whole movie computer tech thing blending Bond into just another generic action thriller in the modern era. Licence to Kill was the perfect Bond movie. The Living Daylights had the harder, more human James Bond character, but it was saddled with a Roger Moore era script, and two very weak, forgettable villains. Licence to Kill was written for Dalton’s Bond, it had the most realistic Bond villain in Sanchez, and it managed to be dark, edgy and tense while still retaining that trademark Bond humour.
It was good when I first saw it, and it has improved in my estimation with each subsequent Bond movie that has been made, all of them failing to recapture what this film accomplished. What nails it for me is Robert Davi’s portrayal of Sanchez. He creates a villain who is suave, charismatic, and witty, as well as violent and brutal. In many ways he is the mirror image of Bond, and it really makes the film a conflict of equals. And stripping Bond of his 007 accoutrements and safety net, minimising the gadgetry, and having him go off on a half-cocked mission of revenge reveals the humanity in the character to a far greater degree. He’s impulsive and blind here, and it’s only when his actions have fatal consequences that he realises that he’s taken the wrong path.
Smart characterisation and a solid script coupled with the best of eighties stunt work and action means that Licence to Kill has a solid place in my heart as the best James Bond movie. This Blu-ray offers a great viewing experience too, making the most of a film that is almost 30 years old now.