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Licence to Kill (1989) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
ImageIn 1989, "Licence to Kill" blasted its way onto the screen.  (Side Note: "licence" is correct.  It is the British spelling of America's "license").  "Licence to Kill" marks the last Bond film before the modern era of Pierce Brosnan as Bond.  The time difference between "Licence to Kill" and the next Bond film, "Goldeneye" is the largest separation among all 22 official Bond films – six years.

Timothy Dalton starred as Bond twice.  This film marks his second appearance as the British agent.  I actually enjoy his portrayal of Bond.  Personally, I think he is one of the better Bonds.  I prefer him over Roger Moore.  His demeanor is more suave.  Still, I think Pierce Brosnan had the most controlled Bond performance.

In "Licence to Kill" Bond is attending the wedding of his friends Felix and Della (David Hedison and Priscilla Barnes).  In the midst of the wedding in the Florida Keys, the notorious drug dealer, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is spotted on the island.  Waiting for the longest time for Sanchez to leave the protection of Cuba, Bond and Felix take off to capture him before he returns to his homeland.  In a rather ingenious aerial stunt, they succeed in capturing the villain.  Movie over, right?  Wrong?

While Felix and Della are getting married, an agent inside the US government conspires to break Sanchez out of custody to a reward of two million dollars.  Once Sanchez is freed, he exacts his revenge on Felix and Della.  This is a really sad part of the film.  None of the other Bond films get this sad.  Bond catches wind of the escape of Sanchez at the airport on his way home.  In stead, he turns back to check on Felix.  When he finds that his friend has been attacked, he sets off to exact his personal revenge.

When M (Robert Brown) finds out that Bond has not left for his next assignment, he shows up in Florida to demand Bond leave and let Sanchez be the Americans problem.  Bond refuses and M demands his surrender.  Bond refuses and escapes as a fugitive of the British secret service.

Now on his own, Bond follows some leads found at the home of his friend Felix.  He finds a pilot contact of Felix's.  He meets her at the next arranged meeting and they both happen to get into a gunfight with some of Sanchez's operatives.  Felix's contact happens to be a woman, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell).  Bond uses her to get to Cuba to infiltrate Sanchez's lair.

Sanchez is involved in a drug ring in which he manufactures drugs using a gasoline and ammonia process and sells it for large sums of cash.  Bond hijacks one of these trades and uses that money to make his way Sanchez.  For some reason or another, Sanchez does not recognize Bond as one of the men that helped to capture him in the first place.

As is customary with all Bond films, there are two women in his life.  The first is Pam and the second is Sanchez's girl, Lupe (Talisa Soto).  Both women play their roles well.  Pam is a strong woman that still wants the love of Bond.  Lupe simply wants to escape from Sanchez and is willing to settle for Bond. "Licence to Kill" contains some great action sequences including a meditation retreat slash drug lab explosion and a gasoline tanker truck chase.  Of course, who could forget the moment in which Milton Krest's head explodes in the decompression chamber.  Overall, "Licence to Kill" is a good action flick, with some interesting twists.  Still, the ending leaves much to be desired.  Somehow Bond is in no trouble whatsoever with British Intelligence.  All seems to be forgotten.  Also, the climax between Sanchez and Bond is a bit of a disappointment.  Nevertheless the journey is pretty fun.

The video quality of this Blu-ray transfer is fairly remarkable.  As a 1989 film, it is in much better shape than several the previously reviewed titles of this era.  It still falls a bit short of reference quality, but is terrific nonetheless.  The details are a bit soft all the way through the film.  Details are still impressive, but as a whole the image appears a bit soft.  This is most likely due to digital noise reduction.  The image is fantastically clean.  There is barely a speck of film grain and rarely any dust, dirt or other blemish imprints.  Because of this lack of film grain I suspect that some good noise reduction was applied to this film print.  The colors are accurate but not as vibrant I would like them to be.  The image lacks that visual pop.  Shadow delineation is impressive.  All of the night sequences on the ocean contain readily distinguished objects.  This is complemented by above average black levels.  There is no evidence of edge enhancement, banding or artifacting in the image.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, as well as the original Dolby Stereo Surround format.  For the first time in these MGM Bond releases, I welcome the 5.1 remix of the film.  The music is well balanced in the front channels as well as rear channels to provide a nice enveloping music listening experience.  Right from the start, the LFE channel is powerful.  The opening Bond sequence has music by Gladys Knight.  The bass is strong and presence.  This was a surprising and welcomed experience.  The LFE channel dies down a bit during the film, even in the gunfight sequences.  It is present, but just not as tight and strong.  Then, once again in the closing song the LFE channel bass comes back to life.  Dialogue is clear but mastered a bit too low in the mix.  Sound effects are much fuller than past Bond films, but still lacked that bottom end.  The high frequencies have been increased in the audio track, making the film's audio much brighter.  What surprised me in this audio track was the usage of the surround channels.  The studio really did remix the film's audio from the original stems.  There are several instances of discreet sound effects in the rear channels.  However, sometimes they are so unexpected that it takes you out of the film.  Still, this is a super audio track.

As with all the past MGM Bond releases, this Blu-ray comes with a host of bonus materials.  Most of them are carried over from the previous standard DVD special edition of the film.  There are two audio commentaries.  The first is with director John Glen and members of the cast, with some type of narration.  The second audio commentary is a mix of crew members and Michael G. Wilson.  Neither audio commentary is that intriguing, primarily because you never can tell what is going on with the speakers.

Aside from the audio commentaries, there are several featurettes.  First, "Inside 'Licence to Kill' – A Documentary" is a collection of interviews in mix formats.  There is a collection of deleted scenes, about 10 minutes worth.  These feature introductions by director John Glen.  "On the Set with John Glen" is pretty repetitive of his audio commentary.  "On Location with Peter Lamont" takes a look at the production design.  "Ground Check with Corky Fornoff" takes a look at the aerial acrobatics of the film.  "Bond '89" contains some interviews with Timothy Dalton.  There is a Behind the scenes production featurette.  There are two music videos; Gladys Knight's "Licence to Kill" and Patti LaBelle's "If You Asked Me To."  "Kenworth Trucks" is a featurette on the trucking stunts in the film.  Lastly, the disc is equipped with the 007 Mission Control interactive guide, an image gallery, and some theatrical trailers.

"Licence to Kill" is a fun movie, that despite the run time, flows rather nicely.  The video quality is exquisite and the audio is fantastically remixed to 5.1.  I recommend this film for Bond and non-Bond fans alike.

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