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Licence to Kill(1989)
James Bond catapults into his most passionate adventure — not for country, not for justice, but for personal revenge. Timothy Dalton brings urgency, charm and deadly determination to his role as 007.
For more about Licence to Kill and the Licence to Kill Blu-ray release, see Licence to Kill Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on April 28, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Frank McRae
Director: John Glen
» See full cast & crew
Licence to Kill Blu-ray Review
Timothy Dalton's trademark performance as 007 is given new life in 1080p.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, April 28, 2009
Some watch 007 films for the action and stunts. Some for the international intrigue. Others for the hot babes, or James Bond's charming personality. But with the reboot of the franchise in 2006, Bond is now updated, energized, revved up and cooled down to the ultimate hard-hitting, sharpshooting, steel-veined spy. Timothy Dalton is no match for Daniel Craig's new Bond, but he sure beats Roger Moore as 007. Interestingly, MGM's release of Licence to Kill coincides with its street date for The Man with the Golden Gun and recent release of Quantum of Solace. In their own time, each of the three films featured a relatively new Bond appearing for only the second time as 007, giving fans a unique chance to compare and contrast Moore, Dalton and Craig at the same point in their careers as Bond.
While critics are in general agreement that Moore was a poor choice for Ian Fleming's spy, there has been more heated debate about the merits of Dalton and Craig. Of course, their progenitor, the immensely popular Sean Connery, dragged these evaluations off course by establishing Bond on the silver screen as a suave and charming creature who rarely got dirt under his fingernails. Moore continued in that vein, while Dalton offered a grittier alternative that became fully realized in Craig, who was tortured and in full revenge mode by the end of his first Bond film, Casino Royale. Dalton's Licence to Kill is very much a revenge story, too, ending his career as Bond and thrusting the franchise into turmoil for six years. So it is interesting to revisit the film and poke around under the hood. With very good picture and sound quality, it's an enjoyable ride.
Licence to Kill gets off to a jolting start when Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is no sooner married than his wife is murdered and Felix himself is nearly tortured to death. The villain is drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), who Felix recently incarcerated. Having broken out of prison, Sanchez gets revenge on Leiter. Then Bond goes after Sanchez, defying MI6 orders. Depending on how you interpret the events, Bond resigns or M (Robert Brown) decides to strip Bond of his license to kill. The bottom line is that MI6 does not believe Sanchez to be a threat to England or a strategic target and suddenly Bond is on his own. Instead of rendering Bond powerless, the revocation of his 007 status makes him more dangerous than ever. With the help of one of Felix's friends, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), Bond gains access into Sanchez's production facility and his hot on the trail of the drug lord in a vendetta unlike any Bond film that came before.
Like every Bond film that came before, Licence to Ill features an exotic woman in Sanchez's girlfriend, Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto). It also takes the violence and stunts up a notch over the preceding adventures of 007. But the real departure here is to turn Bond into an unsympathetic, vengeful character motivated not by duty or justice but purely by revenge. The idea was done better in Quantum of Solace, where Bond appeared to defy M and pursue his vengeance, but he was really acting in the interests of the MI6 all along and effectively saved countless lives in Bolivia and beyond. In Licence to Kill, this is not the case and Dalton's Bond has fewer redeeming qualities. Little wonder it was Dalton's last stint as 007.
Licence to Kill Blu-ray, Video Quality
The picture quality of Licence to Kill is among the best of MGM's 007 Blu-ray releases. Black level, contrast, detail and color heat are all spot on. The softness of the transfers from Bond films of the 1960s and '70s is gone and replaced with a precise definition that is near reference quality. The result: skin and clothing textures appear ultrarealistic and the action packs a presence that I have never seen before in a film made in the 1980s. The transfer is that good. Watch the night scene with the boat docking at the harbor. The low-light detail appears nuanced and defined. Motion and textures in the rippling water are rendered with palpable realism and the blacks add a depth that makes you think you could jump right into the screen and go for a moonlight swim. Even on scenes with more dramatic motion, like the boat chase and plane chase, I see no indication of banding or motion artifacts. The picture appears on the boarderline of being unnaturally noise-free which would raise suspicions about DNR, but no signs of digital processing are present. Just a remarkably clean, vivid picture with good depth and definition.
Licence to Kill Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While not quite as good as the video performance, MGM's DTS HD Master Audio track delivers a powerful punch. It may not be the most dynamic surround mix--in fact only reverb and the rare miscellanious sounds appear to have been assigned to the rear channels. But that does not significantly detract from the overall soundstage experience. The audio has a disarming presence and forward attack anchored in the front three speakers. The dialog and other sounds from the boats and planes have accurate timbral cues and good resolution. The engines have a more open, throaty sound compared to the audio track on The Man with the Golden Gun, which MGM released simultaneously. Unlike that film, Licence to Kill delivered a bit more bass wallop and more extension in the treble, which are essential for good HT performance.
The film's music is highlighted by the DTS HD MA track--particularly the theme song by Gladdys Knight, which later became a top 10 hit in the UK. Her voice appears lush and defined, and the instruments have good articulation. I can't escape the feeling that DTS HD MA bloats the upper midrange-to-lower treble, and this is my major complaint of all such tracks, but it really will not get in the way of one's enjoyment. Like Knight's voice, Patti LaBelle's singing is paid off on the closing track, "If You Asked Me To", as the credits roll. In between the two divas' bookends, the audio backing is mostly comprised of instrumental tracks rather than a true score.
Licence to Kill Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
As with Blu-ray release of The Man with the Golden Gun, Licence to Kill features two separate audio commentary tracks. The first features director John Glen and members of the cast hosted by a narrator. The similarly cluged together second commentary features Michael G. Wilson and members of the crew. The centerpiece of the bonus content is listed under Mission Dossier and includes the making-of supplements.
Inside Licence to Kill--This half-hour documentary is a clugey mixture of standard- and high-definition interviews with various principles involved in the film. Many technical details are discussed, but it's essentially the same is in the audio commentary.
Behind the Scenes--A five-minute standard-definition clip like the one included on The Man with the Golden Gun showing odd views of a set.
Kenworth Truck Stunt Film--A 10-minute documentary in standard definition showcasing trucks that were specially designed for the stunts at the end of the film.
Licence to Kill Music Video--If you loved the '80s and still want your MTV, you will get a kick out of this standard definition four-minute music video by Gladys Knight. The audio performance is fairly atrocious.
If You Asked Me To Music Video--Similar to the Gladys Knight video, MGM includes the standard definition, four-minute Patti LaBelle video, so you can get your '80s groove on. The audio is again not up to par.
Bond '89--A 12-minute standard definition series of interviews highlighting Dalton and his approach to playing Bond.
On Set With John Glen--This 10-minute standard definition clip features the director in some audio commentary that offers no real insight beyond his commentary track mentioned above.
On Set With Peter Lamont--Another standard definition behind-the-scenes clip--this one only five minutes, featuring production designer Peter Lamont, who discusses the challenges of extensive shooting in Mexico for the film's fictional location of Isthmus.
Ground Check with Corky Farnoff--Like the "On Set" clips, this five-minute, standard-definition interview gives a glimpse into the making of Licence to Kill, in this case with aerial coordinator Corky Farnoff who discusses the airplane stuntwork.
Rounding out the bonus content is 11 minutes worth of deleted scenes, featuring introductions by director John Glen, a one-minute clip of standard-definition credits, the "007 Mission Control" feature included on all MGM's Bond Blu-ray releases that provides instant access to specific scenes, three minutes worth of trailers and an image database of production and behind-the-scenes photos.
Licence to Kill Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In addition to the fine Blu-ray quality, the story, acting and production values of Licence to Kill are all fairly solid, but I find myself held back by the styles and music of the 1980s. The decade was not one of my favorites, and the fashions seem dated and cheesy. If you can get past it, however, Timothy Dalton turns in a surprisingly strong performance that brings a totally new edge (at the time) to Bond. One can argue this revenge story was a precursor to Quantum of Solace, but I find Daniel Craig's interpretation of Bond to be far more evolved, staying truer to the character's core while adding some element of timelessness or at least 21st century sensibilities. In Dalton's case, his portrayal of 007 steeped in revenge and in full renegade mode was not enough to survive the criticism. It would be the last time he played Bond and the last time Albert Broccoli would serve as producer for a Bond film.
Licence to Kill: Other Editions
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Licence to Kill Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Bond Wave 3 Gets Detailed - March 19, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray releases on 'License to Kill' and 'The Man With the Golden Gun', which are due to hit store shelves on ...
• MGM Announces May Titles: Fargo, Bond, & The Good, the Bad, and t... - February 26, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have announced an onslaught of classic catalog titles for release on Blu-ray this May. On May 12th, they will release 'Fargo', 'Force 10 From Navarone', ...
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