Licence to Kill (1988)
It’s a revenge movie, and I love revenge movies. And this is a different Bond movie. It’s darker than the other Bond movies.
5 min read
3 ½ / 4 Stars
Link to the Talking Cinema podcast deep dive
Why I love this movie
It’s a revenge movie, and I love revenge movies. And this is a different Bond movie. It’s darker than the other Bond movies. You could say that Skyfall is somewhat of a dark movie with a revenge element, but Licence to Kill is flat-out a revenge movie.
And it’s a revenge movie, and this is a spoiler if you have been listening to this pod (we give spoilers), but Bond kills the villain at the end. No prison, have someone else kill him, or have the bad guy kill himself. Bond even tells the bad guy, Sanchez, why he is killing him. All the elements you need that are in a revenge movie, at least for my definition.
And this movie wastes no time, especially the first half. In the first 15 minutes, you are introduced to Bond, his friend Felix (and his wife, which ends up getting killed), who gets severely injured, and the bad guy. From there, you know what the movie is going to be. And Bond has no time to be the funny, witting guy. He is on a mission, but not from his boss. It is his own mission. He wants revenge.
The first 8 minutes are off the hook. From the coast guard helicopter to the DEA handing a gun to Felix and then having them run, I think in slow motion, to get Sanchez. To Bond, with the strange look from the DEA and Coast Guard, performing a death-defying stunt to capture Sanchez’s plane.
The shark scene where Feliz gets severely hurt. I love the line - “See you in hell.” Felix just knows he is going to hell even though he is a good guy.
A short scene, but the look on Bond’s face when he finds out the bad guys killed Sharky. Bond was already on a mission to get revenge. Now the bad guys just turned it up a notch.
The scene with Q. Q is also in on this rouge mission too. He loves Bond. And he knows that Bond needs his help. It might be the most extensive that Q has been used in a Bond mission. Pretty cool.
Also, I love all the scenes with Benicio del Toro, who plays Dario - Sanchez’s henchman. Watching an actor play a small role in a movie before they get big is fun. And Del Toro has had a great career with The Usual Suspects, Snatch, Traffic (he won an oscar for that role), and Sicario.
The drug scene is where they mix it with petrol or some solution. Pretty ingenious idea.
I could probably go with a shorter action set piece at the end. I’m not a big-action set-piece type of guy. But it’s the 80s and a Bond movie, so it is known to have action sequences. Also, this movie has a teenage audience, so you have to include that. But I do like this movie predates Fast and Furious, because a lot of that action at the end is very Fast and the Furious.
The movie would have been better served if it ended with Sanchez being lit on fire. But I guess you needed to see if Felix survived and if Bond ended up with Lupe or Pam.
Great script. Simple plot, but you don’t need something complicated for a revenge movie. I love how they set up what the movie is about right from the beginning.
Some of the lines by Pam, played by Carey Lowell, are a little weak. I don’t think it’s her fault. Movies from that time just had underdeveloped women characters. But Carey Lowell looks great. The same with Lupe, played by Talisa Soto.
This movie is directed by John Glen - who directed 5 James Bond movies. This was his last one and probably his best. He also edited 3 other Bond movies - On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker (1979) - so he has a lot of experience making James Bond movies.
Timothy Dalton makes a great Bond. I think he got too much criticism for playing this role. It is just hard to follow Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The latter being a great all-time actor and the former having the great looks and timing to play Bond. But Dalton has the good looks and that edge to him - which serves him well in this movie because it is a darker movie.
I think because this movie was a disappointment compared to previous Bond movies, they wanted to do a reboot. They didn’t do another bond movie until six years after Licence to Kill.
And I think they wanted to reboot it to give it more humor and less dark.
Bond has a lot of fans, but what I find interesting is how many people are interested in the casting of Bond. That is like it’s another whole thing in itself. It’s like the casting of Bond is its own headline. It has cultural significance. Even politicians would remark on who is playing Bond. It’s like Bond represents the type of guy we should honor and even strive to be, which can be problematic. Bond is a womanizer, but he does it for the mission.