Licence to Kill (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Glen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 133 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 3.0 English, 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Korean, others
MSRP: $ 34.98
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Review Date: May 21, 2009
Timothy Dalton’s second (and final) outing as James Bond was the sixteenth film in the official franchise, Licence to Kill. Both Dalton Bond pictures have a more somber vibe than the Roger Moore Bonds had, and this second film in his series is much more dour than even The Living Daylights was. The violence is uglier, and the crime is grittier and more earthy in this one. The film has its pleasures to be sure, but it wasn’t a huge surprise when the producers decided not to do any more films with Dalton as Bond. Despite being more than competent in the job, the franchise needed a fresh face and a fresh approach.
When his best friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is fed to the sharks and left for dead on his wedding day, secret agent James Bond (Timothy Dalton) makes it his agenda to exact revenge on the perpetrators. They include an international drug lord named Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) who’s perfected a system to combine cocaine with gasoline so that it’s undetectable and can be shipped anywhere without fear of discovery. Though MI-6 officially disapproves of Bond’s rogue tactics and forces him to resign and fight on his own, he finds his old friendly nemesis Q (Desmond Llewelyn) a tremendous help to him along with Sanchez’s browbeaten girl friend Lupe (Talisa Soto) and a feisty CIA pilot (Carey Lowell).
John Glen, who had edited earlier Bond films and was promoted to director during Roger Moore’s final few Bond pictures, does a first-rate job with directing the film from several quite incredible flying stunts and underwater sequences to the film’s climactic truck convoy duel bringing a unique look and feel to the usually overproduced Bond stunts. Much like the Daniel Craig reboots of the franchise of this century, Licence to Kill boasts very few of those tired bons mots that were too prevalent during the later Connery and Moore Bonds, but the tone of this installment is so unremittingly grim that it isn’t much fun, and it's also slightly too long for the story it has to tell. The villain, too, is more down and dirty than usual. As a drug lord, Sanchez seems fond of doing some of his own dirty work leaving behind the aesthete villains such as Blofeld and Dr. No as very distant memories.
Timothy Dalton may not be the favorite Bond of very many people, but revisits to his two films find him a more than competent action hero. True, there’s not much of a twinkle in his persona; he’s a bitter-tinged Bond lacking the swagger of a Connery or Craig or the droll confidence of a Brosnan. But his talent as an actor helps him overcome some of the deficiencies in charisma that he displays. Neither Bond girl here is especially impressive. Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto are lovely but seem barely a part of the action. Robert Davi has the ice cold killer down to perfection, and henchmen Anthony Zerbe, Frank McRae, and the youthful Benicio Del Toro assist capably. And it’s a pleasure to see Desmond Llewelyn with more to do in this picture, especially since the film boasts only a couple of Bond gadgets, another clear break with many past efforts.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The DVD of Licence to Kill which I had (the Special Edition) had a soft, occasionally dirty picture, but the Lowry craftsmen have done wonders with the image here as it’s quite sharp and very appealing in color depth and dimensionality. Blacks are really inky, and shadow detail is well done. There may have been a thin edge halo or two, but if so, they weren’t distracting, and the encode is really rock solid with many places where aliasing and moiré could have been real problems and actually aren’t at all. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes for a surprisingly lively surround experience. While music is used mostly across the front channels for much of the movie (it spreads out more later on), the surrounds get the benefit of multiple discreet effects through the entire film. True, the levels of sound are sometimes a trifle overemphasized, but the many explosions will keep your entire system working on overdrive especially as the film nears its climax. The original Dolby Surround audio track is also available as an alternative.
The disc offers two audio commentaries. John Glen and co-stars Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, Desmond Llewelyn, and others reminiscence about making the picture in the first commentary. The better and longer of the two tracks finds producer Michael Wilson and many members of the crew offering insight on their contributions to the picture.
There are nine deleted scenes with introductions by director John Glen that can be played individually or in one 10 ½-minute grouping. They’re in 1080p.
“Bond ‘89” is an 11 ¾-minute series of interviews with Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, and Robert Davi along with the film’s producer and stunt coordinator filmed during production of the movie when it was still called Licence Revoked. It’s in 480p.
“On Set with John Glen” finds the director narrating the staging and filming of one of the stunts in the movie. This 480p featurette lasts 9 ½ minutes.
“On Location with Peter Lamont” features the home movies of production designer Peter Lamont filmed on location in Mexico. It lasts 5 ½ minutes in 480p.
“Ground Check with Corky Fornoff” is a brief 4 ¾-minute piece narrated by aerial coordinator Corky Fornoff describing the rehearsals and filming of the airplane-tanker trunk stunt near the film’s climax. It’s in 480p.
007 Mission Control is the interactive feature that allows the user to jump to dozens of pre-marked places in the film where specific characters, props, or catchphrases are used.
“Inside Licence to Kill” is the official making of documentary for the movie featuring cast and crew in interviews covering each aspect of the four month shoot. This 32-minute feature is in 1080i.
A behind the scenes production featurette which came out around the time of the film’s premiere is the puffy EPK version of the production process. It lasts 5 minutes and is in 480p.
“Kenworth Truck Stunt Film” is 9 ½ minutes with Remy Julienne, the movie’s stunt coordinator, working with the Kenworth Truck Company to rehearse and film the truck stunts in the movie. It’s in 480p.
There are two music videos available for viewing: “Licence to Kill” features Gladys Knight in a 4 ½-minute 480p video while “If You Asked Me To” has Patti Labelle in a 4-minute 480p music piece.
Two theatrical trailers are on the disc, both in 1080p. They may be viewed separately or in one 3 ¼-minute grouping. The first is in 2.35:1 while the second is 1.85:1.
An extensive step-through image database contains dozens of black and white and color pictures and artwork dividing the production photos into eleven classifications.
Licence to Kill usually doesn’t make anyone’s list of favorite Bond titles, and yet there is a great deal to offer in this 007 adventure. The Blu-ray plays to the film’s strengths with excellent picture and sound and a raft of extras. Recommended!