Thursday, August 06, 2015

Licence to Kill (1989) | Bond

Actors and Allies

Timothy Dalton is doing the same thing in Licence to Kill that he did in The Living Daylights, but his character doesn't feel like Bond to me this time. The problem is the story. What worked so well about Living Daylights was that it put Dalton's super serious Bond in the middle of a traditional Bond adventure. Licence wants the story to match the character, but it goes too far and doesn't feel like a Bond movie to me. It's nothing more than an acceptable (but derivative) '80s action movie with some traditional Bond characters and gadgets laid over the top.

The one exception to that - the one time that it really feels like a Bond movie to me - is when Bond escapes underwater attackers by shooting a tethered spear into the pontoon of a seaplane and waterskis behind it as the Bond Theme blares triumphantly. It's a great stunt and an awesome moment.

An example of Bond's not really working in this plot is how forced his resignation is. M flies all the way to Florida to confront Bond about getting back on the job and heading to Istanbul for his next assignment. I love the idea that M's got Bond's next assignment ready and is anxious to get him there, but he's unexpectedly inflexible about it. Robert Brown's M has never been as personable as Bernard Lee's gruff, but caring boss was, so it's not out of character for him. It's just hard to reconcile with the numerous times that Bond has taken leave before to deal with personal stuff. There are other Double-Os. What's going on in Istanbul that's so important that Bond specifically is needed to deal with it? The world clearly doesn't come to an end because he takes time off (though how cool an ending would that have been?) and M welcomes him back to MI6 with zero consequences.

M may not be acting out of character, but Moneypenny certainly is. At least, she's not the same person that Lois Maxwell played. The Living Daylights gave us a hint of that, but it's really obvious in Licence. It's cool that she's worried about Bond, but not that it's making her incompetent at her job.

Back on the positive side: this may be my favorite Q story ever. We've seen Q hit the field before; usually to supply Bond with some complicated tech. This time, he's effectively gone rogue, bringing whatever crap he had lying around. The Bond/Q animosity was gone in Living Daylights, but this time there's genuine affection between the two of them. Q's taking a great risk in helping Bond and Bond tells him, "You're a hell of a field operative." It's lovely.

I like that Felix has more to do in this movie than he usually does. And Della is a great partner for him. I sometimes hear speculation that there's something going on between Della and Bond, but I don't see it. She's super friendly around him and kisses him all the time, but she does it in front of Felix and there's nothing sexual about it. She's just that kind of person and she genuinely loves Bond as much as Felix does. They make a great trio and it's tough to watch how happy they all are knowing what's going to happen. My complaint about the whole thing is how quickly Felix gets over Della's death. By the end of the movie he's in the hospital, but yukking it up with Bond on the phone like nothing's happened. It's the same as the M situation. The movie sets up this horrible, remarkable set of circumstances, but wants to hit the reset button at the end so that we're all back to normal for the next movie. It can't have it both ways.

Sharkey's a cool, original character. I'm curious about where he came from and wonder if with the other Live and Let Die references he might be inspired by Quarrel.

The only other allies worth mentioning - and I hesitate to call them allies - are the Hong Kong narcotics agents who conveniently get in the way just long enough to endear Bond to Sanchez. I like the idea of them, it's just that they're gone almost as soon as they show up. Would've been cool to see them and Bond working against each other for longer.

Best Quip

"Bon appétit," after locking a guard in a drawer full of maggots. After I picked it, I realized that it totally rips off Conney's piranha line from You Only Live Twice, but oh well. Quips aren't really appropriate to Licence's tone and Dalton doesn't sound comfortable with them, so this is as good as we get.

An honorable mention is when Bond turns over his weapon to M in Ernest Hemingway's house and says, "I guess that's farewell to arms." I love the pun, but again, that's a crazy awkward time to be making it.

Worst Quip

"Looks like he came to a dead end," when Sanchez's head of security is run through with a forklift and crashes through a wall.


Not much in the way of gadgets for Licence. It's pretty much whatever Q had lying around, which is a tube of plastic explosive toothpaste, a cigarette pack detonator, and a camera gun keyed to Bond's handprint. They all come in handy, of course, but as befitting a box of junk, none of them are especially memorable.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Iceberg boat (A View to a Kill)
5. Aston Martin V8 Vantage (The Living Daylights)
6. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
7. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
8. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
9. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
10. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)

Bond's Best Outfit

I'm getting bored with the fashion stuff now that we're out of the '60s and '70s. Probably going to drop this section from here out. I've always liked the white cotton shirt with khakis look though, and Bond's blue jacket is pretty snazzy too, even with the shoulder pads.

Bond's Worst Outfit

Strangely, it's the tux. It's Bond's iconic look, but Dalton doesn't look that comfortable in it. He's not that kind of spy.

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