Timothy Dalton might have endured a bit of grief for his short tenure as James Bond, enduring comments equating him to Connery and Moore plagued his two film run, with this one being the last. However, this one was quite the doozy, and almost in the area of “forgotten gem” status.
Written by Richard Maibaum (The Man With the Golden Gun) and producer Michael Wilson, and directed by John Glen (A View to a Kill), Dalton as Bond finds himself as the Best Man to the wedding of lo…gtime friend and CIA operative Felix Leiter. Leiter has helped secure the feared druglord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi, Die Hard) moments before the wedding, but Sanchez breaks free and avenges his incarceration on those involved, including Leiter. When Felix is severely hurt and his bride killed, James takes it upon himself to avenge their fates, even if it means having his “00” license revoked.
The film’s execution of the story isn’t too bad, and the performances themselves aren’t too shabby, but there’s something not quite right about it. The surprise of seeing Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (Traffic) aside, the film startles in some of the cinematic choices. Dalton’s cigarette smoking aside, the film is one of the bloodier Bonds that you can experience. Nothing too over the top, but a partner of Sanchez’ faces an interesting departure.
From my understanding, the story was put together at the last minute, but it’s clear that Wilson and others had wanted to take the franchise in another direction for quite some time before Casino Royale was the big reboot for Bond. Overall, it would be nice to see this reintroduced in another general manner or fashion, but otherwise it’s worth seeing to decide whether or not you want to skip it.
The Ultimate Edition is a noticeable improvement from the Special Edition, with more natural looking fleshtones and a cleaner more consistent picture throughout the film. All in all it’s worth bumping up for if you can.
The usual Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtrack options to choose from. Overall it’s a lot more active on the surround speakers with helicopters and gunshots, but it provides the subwoofer “oomph” when it has to, especially for the climatic finale.
The commentary from the Special Edition have been held over for the Ultimate Edition. First is a commentary with Glen and members of the cast including Lowell, Davi and Del Toro. The track is edited together with the participants, with Glen being the main participant. During the lulls of the track The Ian Fleming Foundation’s John Cork provides his own detail, trivia and opinion. It’s not too bad of a track, and the expanded participation helps it a bit. The second track is more crew based, headed by producer Michael Wilson and moderated again by Cork. This track is a little bit more dry and without a lot of vitality, but helps to show off the philosophies of the crew and going into a bit of production detail.
Disc Two brings in the “Declassified: MI6 Vault”, also known as the new supplement section. Starting things off, there is some location footage with longtime Bond crewmember Peter Lamont. It’s a little over five minutes long and for those who haven’t seen the similar extra on other films, it’s a narrated film of the set locations. “On Set with Jon Glen” is a featurette where Glen provides some recollections set to some old production footage. “Ground Check with Corky Cornof” is a look at the airplane stunts in the film with an aerial stunt coordinator by the same name. Cornof actually gets into some good detail about what he has to do for this film and it’s interesting to view. After that are nine deleted scenes that total about nine minutes in length. From there, the “007 Mission Control” is the interactive guide of Bond familiarities found on other titles, and after that, the “Mission Dossier” section holds the older material. First off is the older documentary “Inside Licence to Kill”, which is about a half hour long. Narrated by Patrick Macnee, the piece puts the film within the context of the franchise, and it includes interview footage with Glen, Wilson and other members of the cast and crew (yes, Del Toro contributes a recent interview to it). Glen and Wilson also discuss the influences of films like Yojimbo for this film. There are also the usual recollections and breakdowns of some scenes and stunts, while Davi recalls how much fun he had as the villain. Next up is an on site featurette on the production itself that lasts five minutes. After that is about ten minutes of preparation and activity for the truck stunt that is in the film. Two videos (by Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle) follow this. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section contains two trailers, and the “Image Database” section has stills from the film.
Of all two Timothy Dalton movies, Licence to Kill is the best and probably in the upper echelon when it comes to the Bond franchise overall. The story is a little more action packed and the characters are a little bit darker (Davi might be the most bloodthirsty villain in the franchise’s lore), and despite the cheesiness factor of the appearance and execution, does deserve it’s own time in the spotlight. As Volume 2 of the R1 sets, it’s worth picking the set up, or even as a standalone is worth a rental before buying.
Special Features List
- Director/Cast Commentary
- Producer/Crew Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Introduction
- On Set Footage
- Interactive Guide
- Making of Documentary
- Stunt Sequence Featurette
- Music Videos
- Still Galleries