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Review Licence to Kill (1989): This time it's personal!

genre: action, adventure, espionage

Timothy Dalton returns as a darker and more serious Bond who is out for revenge and even a revoked licence can't stop him. So what are my thoughts on Dalton's last adventure?

For me Timothy Dalton was a a very good Bond. He was the first to actually play the character as intended. Apparently people weren't ready for that and he got blamed for that. But it's his performance that makes Licence to Kill so enjoyable on multiple viewings. Like in The Living Daylights he plays a more realistic Bond who can't be bothered to utter funny one liners all the time. However more so than in The Living Daylights he is far more playful and shown as a real human being who gets hurt more than he dishes out pain. Now personally I always had mixed feelings about this since I do love super human Bond who always manages to get out of the most ridiculous situations in even more outrageous ways. And is James Bond even James Bond without the gadgets? 

However I have learned to appreciate Dalton's Bond a whole lot since instead of relying on chance and technical magic tricks he banks on his own strengths and skills. While his Bond is not shy to kill people in cold blood he does resort to non violent strategies and mind games to get the advantage. Villain of the story Franz Sanchez played by Robert Davi cares more about loyalty than money and Bond very successfully exploits this. Granted this might not be that spectacular to watch but it certainly is amusing to see someone's weakness being used against him. And it is especially gratifying when it results in harm to the people who had it coming. 

Licence to Kill also grounds James Bond in the real world where the super villains are replaced by drug lords who earn more money than they know what to do with. At that time this was a real hot topic but the last thing you would expect Bond to get involved in. Compared to previous stories this one felt pretty generic and unimaginative. Although that could have been remedied had they let Dalton embrace the darkness and grittiness even more. Why not let Bond act as vengeance personified a la Charles Bronson with a body count so high that even Craig's Bond would not be able to top. As nuch as I liked Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier she is nothing but a distraction who could have easily been left out of the film. Lupe Lamora played by Talisa Soto was far more vital and relevant. She could have been one of the many tragic victims murdered by Sanchez which could have served and confirmed Bond's path of righteousness. But I guess that would have infuriated Bond fans even more. In hindsight I think a majority of those Bond fans would agree with me.

In general it comes down to that James Bond is too iconic and big to have him waste time on relative small criminals. If the world is not at stake then you should not even whisper his name. Still that being said Licence to Kill holds up quite nicely and certainly fares a whole lot better than for example Brosnan's outings as Bond. 

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