James Bond is on possibly his most brutal mission yet. Bond’s good friend, Felix Leiter, is left near death, by drug baron Franz Sanchez. Bond sets off on the hunt for Sanchez, but not everyone is happy. MI6 does not feel Sanchez is their problem and strips Bond of his license to kill making Bond more dangerous than ever. Bond gains the aid of one of Leiter’s friends, known as Pam Bouvier and sneaks his way into the drug factories, which Sanchez owns. Will Bond be able to keep his identity secret, or will Sanchez see Bond’s true intentions?
Licence to Kill (1989) is the sixteenth spy film in the James Bond film series by Eon Productions, and the first one not to use the title of an Ian Fleming story. It is the fifth and final consecutive Bond film to be directed by John Glen. It also marks Timothy Dalton’s second and final performance in the role of James Bond.
The story has elements of two Ian Fleming short stories and a novel, interwoven with aspects from Japanese Rōnin tales. The film sees Bond being suspended from MI6 as he pursues drugs lord Franz Sanchez, who has ordered an attack against his CIA friend Felix Leiter and a rape and murder on Felix’s wife during their honeymoon. Originally titled Licence Revoked in line with the plot, the name was changed during post-production because too many people did not know what revoked meant.
Budgetary reasons caused Licence to Kill to be the first Bond film shot completely outside the United Kingdom, with locations in both Florida and Mexico. The film earned over $156 million worldwide, and enjoyed a generally positive critical reception, with ample praise for the stunts, but attracted some criticism of Dalton’s dark and violent interpretation of Bond and the fact that the film was significantly darker and more violent than its predecessors.
After the release of Licence to Kill, legal wrangling over control of the series and the James Bond character resulted in a six-year-long delay in production of the next Bond film which resulted in Dalton deciding not to return. It is also the final Bond film for actors Robert Brown (as M) and Caroline Bliss (as Moneypenny), screenwriter Richard Maibaum, title designer Maurice Binder, editor John Grover, cinematographer Alec Mills, director and former Bond film editor John Glen, and producer Albert R. Broccoli, although he would later act as a consulting producer for GoldenEye before his death.
Licence to Kill (1989)
Directed by: John Glen
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Frank McRae, David Hedison, Priscilla Barnes, Benicio Del Toro, Desmond Llewelyn
Screenplay by: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum
Production Design by: Peter Lamont
Cinematography by: Alec Mills
Film Editing by: John Grover
Costume Design by: Jodie Lynn Tillen
Set Decoration by: Michael Ford
Art Direction by: Dennis Bosher, Michael Lamont
Music by: Michael Kamen
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence and drug content.
Distributed by: Metro Goldwyn Mayer, United Artists (United States), United International Pictures (International)
Release Date: July 14, 1989