Bond Pretitle Sequences: Licence to Kill
Simon Pitt |
Friday 19th July
Iâ€™m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
Licence to Kill
1989 was two and a half decades ago. And watching Licence to Kill, you can tell. It is noticeably an older film than Goldeneye. The film grade is lower and, as I said when writing about Goldeneye, the quality of the gun barrel photo is actually quite poor.
Separately, though, Licence to Kill is a much more adult film. It received the highest classification from the BBFC of any Bond film (15 in the UK). My memories of this are filled with graphic images; Felix Leiter being mauled by sharks, Bond viciously killing people and eventually setting the villain alight. The filming of the final section of the film suffered from something of a curse. The stretch of road with the tanker scene is said to be â€œhauntedâ€. The crew were besieged with accidents and a mysterious flaming hand can be seen on a still shot of the action, but itâ€™s not visible in any frames of the film.
To be honest, itâ€™s probably just because it was taken from a different angle.
Licence to Kill opens on a weird plane with a sort of umbrella thing coming out of the top of it. Some Americans notice that a plane has changed course, so they get their ruler out and work out that it is landing.
We cut to Bond and Felix done up in fancy wedding gear. Just so weâ€™re clear whatâ€™s going on, Felix pesters James about whether he has the ring or not. Theyâ€™re interrupted on the most over rated day of Felixâ€™s life by the DEA, who tell him that Sanchez is in the Bahamas. â€œHave you cleared it?â€ Felix asks, â€œthen letâ€™s go!â€
I wonder if this is standard procedure for American enforcement agencies. I mean, Felix doesnâ€™t even work for the DEA, he works for the CIA. â€œOh before we go get that criminal, have a look around all the other agencies and see if thereâ€™s anyone who might have a personal grudge against him. And if theyâ€™re on leave, send a helicopter to go pick them up, no matter what theyâ€™re doing!â€. And theyâ€™re in a rush; in the opening sequence they say â€œif we hurry we might just catch the bastard!â€ What on Earth do they do when itâ€™s not a rush? I suspect this counts as misconduct.
â€œYou canâ€™t do this to me,â€ the third man in the car shouts as they run away. Itâ€™s a bit much for him to think heâ€™s the real victim here. I suppose he does have to explain to Leiterâ€™s fiancÃ© and her father. In an out of place comic scene, Leiterâ€™s Father-in-law-to-be hams up his disapproval. Christmas in the Leiter household is going to be good fun.
Just in case we didnâ€™t know whether Sanchez was very nice or not, he has shadow over half his face. Oh, also, he orders his people to cut out the heart of the man. And then he whips a woman. Itâ€™s a dark start to what will be a darker Bond film.
Bond is sidelined; Felix instructing him to stay on the helicopter. Itâ€™s unusual for Bond not to be the main event, but I just assume being on his own will give him an opportunity to get into even bigger trouble. Thereâ€™s a weird, slightly out of place shot as Felix runs in slow motion, trumpet sounds playing over the top.
Of course, itâ€™s not this simple, and soon theyâ€™re under fire. Bond is left to pursue on his own. Thereâ€™s quite an impressive stunt that they donâ€™t make much of a big deal of when the stunt man leaps from the hovering helicopter about twenty feet in the air (and nearly loses a hand in the helicopter blades). The section that follows, though, where he shoots the tyre on the jeep is surprisingly boring. Typical Bond, goes after the woman.
â€œYou need help?â€ He says roughly, sounding more like Tarzan than Bond.
â€œNo, take your hands off me. Just go away.â€ She says. Nice one Bond. To be fair to her, he is just pawing at her.
Sanchez, meanwhile is getting away in a plane. He looks so pleased with himself, the nasty piece of work. He carries on beaming to himself as he flies along. He looks like he might even be humming.
Bond, however, has other plans. The Bond theme starts to kick in as Bond hovers over the plane. It has some typical 80s synthesised nonsense added in and even the occasional cheesy key change. Jeez, were the 80s good for anything?
Bond doesnâ€™t look very dignified dangling from the plane. In fact, with his hair blowing all over the place, he looks like a Lego man. I guess this is the problem with very windy scenes, as weâ€™ve see with fights on top of trains. I suspect the harness heâ€™s in doesnâ€™t help either. It reminds me, actually, how dignified Brosnan looks doing his stunts. In Tomorrow Never Dies, thereâ€™s one scene where he elegantly knocks someoneâ€™s legs out from under them as he rolls under a plane. I do expect this gracefulness from Bond. Apparently Sean Connery was originally cast as Bond on the strength of his walk. They thought he had a "cat-like grace". Dalton doesnâ€™t quite have this. But then this is much more of a rough-and-tumble Bond.
Bondâ€™s drops out of the helicopter onto the plane with the winch and hooks it round the back of the plane. The way itâ€™s cut means we actually lose the most impressive moment of this, when Bond unhooks himself, and ties the rope around the plane. I feel they undercut how big a deal this stunt is.
Hooking a plane from behind and dragging it along is an idea thatâ€™s been copied recently in The Dark Knight Rises. Only there itâ€™s the villain doing it. That's a nice reversal, because later, Skyfall and Quantum of Solace feel more like Batman films, I always think.
Maybe this tells us something about Daltonâ€™s Bond. After all, Dalton tends to play villains more than heroes. Heâ€™s a villainous Timelord in Doctor Who, the dubious Barin in Flash Gordon and a dictator in The Beautician and the Beast. In The Living Daylights he even joins forces with the jihadist Mujahideen. Maybe the secret message here is that Timothy Daltonâ€™s Bond is actually a bad guy.
With the plane hooked, Felix and James parachute down to the wedding. Somehow, Felix manages to parachute with a hat in each hand, which is pretty impressive, if you think about it. Landing, he shouts â€œJames, your hat!â€
â€œThank you,â€ Bond says. And from that we meander gently into the title sequence.
Itâ€™s a strange opening this one. Youâ€™d be forgiven for thinking this was the Felix Leiter Show, with Special Guest James Bond. Most of the initial action could have happened without Bond even being there. In fact, Bond is actively a risk. Felix tells him heâ€™s there â€œstrictly as an observerâ€ (Maybe they should have named this film Strictly Come Observing?). Iâ€™d imagine that even his presence there could result in the case against Sanchez being thrown out of court. More annoyingly, they rush through the centrepiece stunt, where Bond lowers himself onto the plane and hooks it. We lose any sense of how impressive it was to pull off. Considering they actually did this stunt for real, itâ€™s surprising they give it so little screen time.
Thereâ€™s a nice conceit that Bond and Leiter go off to save the day and then come back to finish the wedding, but they donâ€™t quite pull that off either. The ending feels flat to me. I think itâ€™s probably because the sequence doesnâ€™t have any proper quips or wit to it. The only humour, such as Felixâ€™s father-in-law, is too hammy, and Bondâ€™s lines are like someoneâ€™s awkward uncle rather than the smooth Bond weâ€™re used to. â€œIf I donâ€™t get you back Iâ€™m a dead man for sure,â€ Bond shouts. Itâ€™s like heâ€™s at a wedding reception talking to people he doesnâ€™t know very well.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- Throughout, Felix calls Bond James
- Later he refers to him as â€œObserverâ€, because, I assume, the British donâ€™t have any jurisdiction here, so Bondâ€™s presence is breaking a number of international laws.
- Bondâ€™s second name or code name are not mentioned
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- â€œHey observer, you trying to get yourself killed?â€ Felix shouts. â€œIf I donâ€™t get you back for the wedding, Iâ€™m a dead man for sure.â€ Bond replies. Itâ€™s like someoneâ€™s Uncle trying to be funny.
- â€œLetâ€™s go fishing,â€ Bond says as he prepares to be lowered down on the plane. Thatâ€™s about as witty as this Bond gets in this sequence. Again itâ€™s weak. There are is not water and no fish involved. And this isnâ€™t how you fish.
Listen Carefully 007
- Bond doesnâ€™t kill anyone
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- Bond is Felix Leiterâ€™s best man. I remember my Dad telling me once when I was young that â€œJames Bondâ€™s best friend is called Felix Leiter.â€ For some reason, thatâ€™s always stuck with me. I think I find the idea of Bond having a â€œbest friendâ€ slightly weird. But it turns out that he was probably right
SP will return...
- There are no gadgets here.