Is LICENCE TO KILL the edgiest Bond film?

edited March 9 in Bond Movies Posts: 4,251
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This thread has inspired me to go back and watch LTK. I’ve always been fond of LTK and had these feelings reignited upon viewing the film again. It was by far the most experimental and feral Bond movie of them all and the risk really pays off in my opinion. However, while LTK is a great movie, is it a great Bond movie? Well I hope to answer that.

Firstly the pre-titles are a fun and breezy affair. I’ve always thought that the openings of Bond movie are best treated as mini-movies and LTK maintains this mantra. There is a villain, a damsel in distress and of course our hero. The central gag that Bond has to get Leiter to the wedding on time whilst also apprehending the baddie is a great and fun way for the movie to start. It also serves to really set up a great villain in Franz Sanchez; we learn that this man is essential ‘untouchable’ and that he happily will face the risk of running into the authorities to get his girl back. The title song is also an old favourite of mine.

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So now into the main body of the film itself: LTK is very much a left-field Bond film. In the opening we meet Bond on something of an excursion, he isn’t on home turf and the character is immediately placed out of his comfort zone and throughout the whole film it seems that a deliberate decision has been made to keep things that way. The ‘unbeatable’ Bond formula is really nowhere to be seen. The beats of a Bond movie are usually very easy to see coming: Bond flirts with Moneypenny, get’s a mission from M, and usually unless he gets romantically attached to a female on his mission (as he usually does) he stays emotionally detached from the events. Well LTK ditches these story beats and in exchange presents a far less familiar path. This was one of the elements I really loved; it really felt like a Bond movie without the rules of a ‘Bond movie’. The narrative takes this great twist early on with Leiter’s attack and the safety net offered by the Bond formula is done away with and in turn a great degree of unpredictability is bestowed on the film early on – as you never quite know what will happen next. When he meets M and has his licence to kill stripped from him immediately to the story darts off into unknown territory as this is truly Bond as we have never seen him before, most definitely his most feral.

I do miss some of the trappings. I’m a little upset that Bond didn’t get to go to flirt with Moneypenny or go through the double padded doors and get briefed by M but in the most part I’m happy that the film stripped back the trappings and troupes and by doing so ridding the series of pastiche. The Bond movies had descended into cliché-ridden affairs by the mind 80’s, with predictable and lazy plotting, cheesy one-liners with an over-reliance on gadgetry that often flirted with the ridiculous. LTK is a breath of fresh air, while it may not be as immediately identifiable as a ‘Bond film’, the sheer audacity that the producers and John Glen took the risk to be quite so experimental must be commended. When the story does concede and allow some of the classic bond elements in - it does so in style be introducing Desmond Llewellyn into the fold, who real chews up the dialogue. Q's introduction is less a retreat to formula and much more a welcome hug he adds a great air of familiarly and keeps the story moving.

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Another reason why the almost subversion of the classic Bond formula really works here is in the central crux behind the Sanchez character. Immediately we are presented with a character who we are told is politically ‘untouchable’, with no one willing to extradite him as he is too well connected in all the countries he hides out in. Bond himself perfectly sums up the affair when talking to the DEA agent when asking if the Americans will go after Sanchez now he’s attacked Leiter, when in reply he hears that there is no means to touch him Bond insists there are “other ways” of getting to him. The movie has to be feral and unpredictable as the circumstances of the story and in particular the dangerousness of the villain forces no other real alternative. Now that is a rather exciting prospect. There is only one way of catching Sanchez and that’s by going rogue. One of the other great elements of the story is the ruthless streak that Sanchez brings out in Bond, there is a passage in Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’ where Le Chiffre talks to Bond and informs them that the pair are not so different it just so happens that Bond works for the side called ‘good’, he still kills people for a living. The film really focuses on the dark side of Bond showing the man at his most dangerous and the lines between the hero and villain most definitely get blurred in LTK. This is evidenced in the scene where Bond corners Pam on the bed after believing that she has betrayed him, it becomes clear that he has become so obsessed with his own personal vendetta he has forgotten about everything else surrounding him.

One of the great things LTK does is really focus on story and narrative, the beats come thick and fast and the story really doesn’t let off as it propels itself further. The film is dictated by its story and not by its spectacle, when the action comes its wonderful but it’s the story that is most gripping. This is helped as the story itself is very easy and simple to follow, its Bond after revenge - and that’s it, we know about Sanchez’s deal with the Chinese and the plot with the stingers but they are coincidental to Bond’s central narrative thrust. There are also a number of great scenes early on that really ratchet up to the tension like Bond’s raid on the warehouse while Sharky sits in the boat waiting and Bond’s attack on Krest’s ship. The action in the film is also first-rate, I think the finale may just be one of the best action sequences that has ever been committed to film - period.

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Timothy Dalton is a dream in this movie, I love his Bond and find it criminal he didn’t get to do another film. He looks deadly (something he proves in the physical scenes in the film) but he really tackles the Bond character from a dramatic perspective filling the man with vulnerability and marring it with a dangerous ruthless side. He really is that good, and thats without even mentioning that twinkle he has in his eyes. He also brings some real pain to the affair – for instance when he finds Della and later when he prepares himself to see Leiter’s maimed body. Dalton’s acting is full of nuance and class and he really sells the character as a human being. Furthermore Robert Davi is on scene-stealing form as Sanchez, he fills the screen with his charismatic presence and for my money is one of the best (if not the best) Bond villain there has been. Sanchez is the dark side of Bond and the scenes the pair share together are some of the best tete-on-tete that have occurred in the franchise’s 50 year history. Furthermore Carey Lowell has a great character to play in a former-CIA-agent-now-turned-informant for the DEA, I liked the whole hardened tomboy angle and she does the role justice. Even Lupe who may be the only character who actually suffers slightly (only really because of her silly ‘I love James so much’ scene) is more than the mere cannon-fodder that many Bond girls have been reduced to in the past and not also forgetting that Talisa Soto is absolutely stunning. David Hedison is also a great avuncular presence in the movie and its great to see him back.

On a technical level, LTK has often had the accusation made against it that it feels like a made-for-TV movie, well I found watching the film on blu-ray relieved this issue as the picture and the film have never looked more filmic or better. I also really liked Michael Kamen’s score and the rather unabashed (now rather retro) 80’s feel of the entire film; from the baggy tucked-in shirts to the gaudy production design of Sanchez’s villa (everything you want from a Columbian drug dealer). As far as things that didn’t work – I can’t really think of too many, a lot has been said about Wayne Newton – but I generally found the film moved too quickly for him to really linger in the memory for too long; however the film’s ending is rather poor. By ending I mean literally the last two minutes of the movie – Bond at a party? Really? I’ve got a soft spot for that winking fish mind you. Bond movies really have never done the last few minutes all that well ever and its only now with Daniel Craig have the last 120 seconds of the films become really memorable. What does save it though is the way that Dalton puts the phone down after Leiter and him finish talking – maybe sensing the shared pain the pair have over the deaths of their wives. But the final moments could have been more hard-hitting and do let the film down ever so slightly, but the faults of the film hardly sink the ship.

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So in summary while this may not be the Bond your father may have known, it’s a gritty feral outing that ditches the espigone and in its place delivers a cold hard-boiled revenge drama that pushes the character into new and interesting terrain with the very capable Timtohy Dalton steering the ship.

I'm not too clued up on my Fleming, but I know that on at least one occasion Bond vommited in the novels following a particularly brutal execution. In a recent GQ article I read and in P&W's Empire podcast there was chatter that this element was adopted in LTK after Bond kills Sanchez. I really can't recall its happening. However brief it may have been, do we know if it's true?
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Comments

  • Posts: 5,767
    A good way to find out would be to watch the film. With LTK, any reason does it ;-). Not sure if I can do it tonight though.
  • MalloryMallory Are you ready to get back to work?
    Posts: 1,101
    I don't think so. Sanchez burns, and bond sighs heavily, it all over. Pam then picks him up. No sick, from what I can remember.
  • edited November 2012 Posts: 55
    They didn't refer to LTK in the podcast. They referenced DN, where Bond walks into the bathroom to retch after smashing the tarantula (as he did in the book as well). He doesn't vomit onscreen, of course - it's implied.
  • Really? Its also stated in the GQ article on why Dalton's Bond is the best.
  • Posts: 173
    I think the GQ article said something along the lines of "his job makes him want to puke" or that he dry heaves there for a bit. I'd have to dig it up to re-read but that's what I remember. He just looks visibly stricken and disgusted after all is said and done and the mayhem and murdering is over. Almost as though he becomes undone for a moment with the sick relief of having attained the revenge he so single-mindedly sought.
  • I think he wretched but didn't actually throw up.
  • Posts: 173
    I think he wretched but didn't actually throw up.

    Yeah, pretty much. That's how I remember it.
  • Still, it shows how taking out a crazed drug lords operation then burning him alive to avenge your friend is extremely stressful, even for James Bond. Just another reason why LTK is awesome.
  • edited November 2012 Posts: 11,175
    The only bond who DID vomit was DC after being poisoned in CR.
  • Bond vomits in the ''Doctor No'' novel after killing the bug.
  • Posts: 17
    No he was not sick in it :)
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,202
    He paused, took a deep breath, sort of folded a bit, then straightened up- the reviewer for GQ took it as a dry heave, but it really wasn't.
  • chrisisall wrote:
    He paused, took a deep breath, sort of folded a bit, then straightened up- the reviewer for GQ took it as a dry heave, but it really wasn't.

    He looked tired/disgusted/relieved that it was over if you ask me. However someone interprets it is fair since there is evidence supporting each claim.
  • I haven't seen License to Kill for some time, but know Dalton doesn't vomit at the end. He had just eliminated Sanchez and for sure wasn't the epitome of health and beauty, but it was merely a sigh of all things, probably because of all his endeavors beforehand and his job was done. I'm adamant Craig didn't vomit in Roayle also, not in the movie release at least, but will have to watch again sometime. Apologies if he did, but it's something I don't quite recall
  • Posts: 11,175
    MaxRebo120 wrote:
    Bond vomits in the ''Doctor No'' novel after killing the bug.

    In the NOVELS he vomited quite a few times - one time being after killing the centipede as you said - but he's only vomited on film once as far as I can remember.
  • KerimKerim Istanbul Not Constantinople
    Posts: 2,629
    I don't believe TD vomited in LTK, but he did hurl popcorn projectiles after watching DAD.

    Oh wait, that was me.
  • I think people may have been throwing heavier things at the screen that year than mere popcorn..

  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 4,210
    I haven't seen License to Kill for some time, but know Dalton doesn't vomit at the end. He had just eliminated Sanchez and for sure wasn't the epitome of health and beauty, but it was merely a sigh of all things, probably because of all his endeavors beforehand and his job was done. I'm adamant Craig didn't vomit in Roayle also, not in the movie release at least, but will have to watch again sometime. Apologies if he did, but it's something I don't quite recall

    No to Dalton.

    Yes to Craig. When he's poisoned he takes a salt shaker and throws up in the bathroom sink.
  • That's the scene I wasn't sure on, but Bond would intentionally make himself vomit after such an incident, so it does make sense

    Why he just couldn't get a naked picture of Irma Bunt or watch The Blair Witch Project in order to do so, we'll never know. Would of made a nice alternative maybe
  • Posts: 4,251
    The posters for the film when it was 'Licence Revoked' were really edgy and cool....

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    Also, iconic hat:

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  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 18,935
    A "transportative" film for me, a film which takes me back to the earlier days of my life, to that certain kind of music, that certain kind of filmmaking, that certain kind of dressing up and more. I'm half a child of the 80s and half of the 90s. The Dalton Bonds play well into my nostalgic memories of how things were. Like a window into my past.
  • GadgetManGadgetMan Nigeria
    Posts: 3,493
    Licence To Kill is a Peculiar & Great Bond Film....I just wanted it scored by John Barry....especially after TLD's Magnificent Score.
  • Posts: 3,116
    GadgetMan wrote: »
    Licence To Kill is a Peculiar & Great Bond Film....I just wanted it scored by John Barry....especially after TLD's Magnificent Score.

    Its only weak spot for me, Kamens score. Though I do love what he does with the gunbarrel music, really gets the film off to a great start!
    Adore TLD and I love the fact that this was so dfferent, but no less a brilliant Bond movie! Regarding those posters, do wish they used that first one by artist Bob Peak. Fab image!
  • CraigMooreOHMSSCraigMooreOHMSS Dublin, Ireland
    Posts: 6,128
    I love Kamen's score, myself. Some of the Latin elements aren't all that interesting to me, but his muscular action music is very strong and uses the Bond theme well.

    Licence Revoked belongs on every Bond playlist, as far as I'm concerned.
  • GadgetManGadgetMan Nigeria
    Posts: 3,493
    Yeah, @Mathis1 & @CraigMooreOHMSS....the Gunbarrel music is good, and exactly the Latin elements....that's what sounds offbeat to me....I guess not every Composer is Ennio Morricone in terms of Composing Latin themes. And Yeah, 'Licence Revoked' is the one I don't struggle listening to....it's quite good, almost like a suite. But Sadly most of the Score is dominated by the not well-handled Latin Themes. I think Kevin Kilner Scored LTK properly in '007 Legends'.
  • thedovethedove hiding in the Greek underworld
    Posts: 3,561
    Edgiest Bond film? Not for the time period. Much more gore and sex going on in other films of the time. I would say it's rather tame stuff. Hardly no sex in this film and the violence is more implied then shown.

    I would actually say TB is way edgier. Guys getting harpoons though the head. Fiona and Bond in bed where it's clear Bond is servicing her. Even the mink glove.

    No LTK is not the edgiest Bond. Definitely the one that doesn't have many (if any) of the tropes of the series. But not the edgiest.
  • Posts: 154
    Watched LTK for the first time in a couple of years last week and was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I always thought it was lower down in my rankings, so this rewatch was a very pleasant surprise!

    Definitely an unerrated Bond film.
  • edited April 2020 Posts: 4,251
    thedove wrote: »
    Edgiest Bond film? Not for the time period. Much more gore and sex going on in other films of the time. I would say it's rather tame stuff. Hardly no sex in this film and the violence is more implied then shown.

    I would actually say TB is way edgier. Guys getting harpoons though the head. Fiona and Bond in bed where it's clear Bond is servicing her. Even the mink glove.

    No LTK is not the edgiest Bond. Definitely the one that doesn't have many (if any) of the tropes of the series. But not the edgiest.

    Disagree.

    Considering the franchise is centred around a suave and unflappable spy, LTK was a big departure. The story itself then sees Bond go rogue and slowly get more angry and driven by revenge. He's a more brutal, less in control and more ruthless.

    It feels like a Bond film without the rules of a Bond film. It's darker, grittier and tounger than its predecessors. Also, Dalton is terrific in it.

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  • Posts: 2,181
    thedove wrote: »
    Edgiest Bond film? Not for the time period. Much more gore and sex going on in other films of the time.

    What other films were up to doesn't determine whether it was the edgiest Bond film. Other non-Bond films of the era may have had more blood and gore, but they were also rated R (or certified 18 in the UK). LTK had to be recut to avoid those ratings, and it remains the only Bond movie to be originally rated 15 by the BBFC. I certainly don't recall any exploding heads in Roger's films. Add to that a man getting his heart cut out, a woman being beaten with a stingray tail, a man getting harpooned, another being fed to a grinder, another set on fire, a shark eating one man and biting off the limbs of another...

    Bond himself gets roughed up at the climax far more than he did in any of the previous films. I remember what a shock it was seeing Bond so bloody and bruised. Of course Craig later came in for his share of punishment, but I think there is still be more blood onscreen in LTK than in the Craig films. So yes, LTK might qualify as the edgiest Bond film, and it probably shares credit with OHMSS and CR as being the most daring experiment in the series.

    Regarding Kamen, I do think the film would have been improved with Barry. But Kamen is among his livelier replacements. He uses the Bond often but avoids repetition and and the Latin themes are appropriate. "Pam" is also a terrific romantic track and work beautifully at a wedding!
    The posters for the film when it was 'Licence Revoked' were really edgy and cool....

    And the posters after the title was changed were the opposite. After MGM annexed United Artists it threw out the efforts of Donald Smolen and Bob Peak, who'd been hired by "Cubby" Broccoli to create the film's teaser campaigns, and instead shipped to theaters teaser posters that were dull and by-the-numbers. I suspect one could write a book about the piss-poor marketing of LTK...
  • Posts: 1,461
    Or at least a really well researched article. They seemed very lax about LTK's marketing, like it's Bond, the public will buy it so why put in any real effort.
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