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Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill, released in 1989, is the sixteenth entry in the Eon Productions James Bond series and the first one not to use the title of an Ian Fleming novel. It marks Timothy Dalton’s second and final performance in his brief tenure in the lead 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 goes after drugs lord Franz Sanchez, who has attacked his CIA friend Felix Leiter during Leiter’s honeymoon. Originally titled Licence Revoked in line with the plot, the name was changed during post-production.

Budgetary reasons made Licence to Kill the first Bond not to be shot in 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 much praise for the stunts, but some criticism on Dalton’s 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 James Bond character resulted in a six-year long delay in production of the next Bond film which resulted in Dalton deciding to not 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, cinematographer Alec Mills, director John Glen and producer Albert R. Broccoli, although he would later act as a consulting producer for GoldenEye before his death.


DEA agents collect James Bond – MI6 agent 007 – and his friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, on their way to Leiter’s wedding to have them assist in capturing drugs lord Franz Sanchez. Bond and Leiter capture Sanchez by attaching a hook and cord to Sanchez’s plane in flight near The Bahamas and pulling it out of the air with a Coast Guard helicopter. Afterwards, Bond and Leiter parachute down to the church in time for the ceremony.

Sanchez bribes DEA agent Ed Killifer and escapes. Meanwhile, Sanchez’s henchman Dario and his crew ambush Leiter and his wife Della. Leiter is maimed by a shark as Della is raped and killed. When Bond returns to Leiter’s house to find Della dead and Felix alive, but seriously wounded, he swears revenge on Sanchez.

After Bond kills Killifer by pushing him into the tank with the shark that maimed Leiter, M meets Bond in Key West’s Hemingway House and orders him to an assignment in Istanbul, Turkey. Bond resigns after turning down the assignment, but M suspends Bond instead and immediately revokes his licence to kill. Bond flees from MI6 custody and becomes a rogue agent, bereft of official backing but later surreptitiously helped by MI6 armourer Q.

Bond boards the Wavekrest – a ship run by Sanchez’s henchman Milton Krest – and foils Sanchez’s latest drug shipment, stealing five million dollars in the process. Bond recruits Pam Bouvier, an ex-CIA agent-pilot whom he rescues from Dario at a Bimini bar, and journeys with her to the Republic of Isthmus. In Isthmus City, Bond finds his way into Sanchez’s employment by posing as an assassin looking for work. Two Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau officers foil Bond’s attempt to assassinate Sanchez, but Sanchez’s men rescue Bond and kill the officers, believing them to be the assassins. Later, with the aid of Bouvier, Q and Sanchez’s girlfriend Lupe, Bond frames Krest by placing the five million dollars he had stolen into the hyperbaric chamber on board the Wavekrest. An angry Sanchez traps Krest in the chamber and then rapidly depressurises it, killing him; meanwhile, for Bond’s perceived loyalty, Sanchez admits him into his inner circle.

Sanchez takes Bond to his base, which is disguised as a meditation retreat. Bond learns that Sanchez’s scientists can dissolve cocaine in petrol and then sell it disguised as fuel to Asian drug dealers. The buying and selling are conducted via the American televangelist Professor Joe Butcher, working under orders from Sanchez’s business manager Truman-Lodge. The re-integration process will be available to those underworld clients who can pay Sanchez’s price. During Sanchez’s presentation to potential Asian customers, Dario discovers Bond and betrays him to Sanchez. Bond starts a fire in the laboratory and attempts to flee, but is captured again and placed on the conveyor belt that drops the brick-cocaine into a giant shredder. Bouvier arrives and distracts Dario, allowing Bond to drop Dario into the shredder, killing him.

Sanchez flees as fire consumes his base, taking with him four articulated tankers full of the cocaine/petrol mixture. Bond pursues them by plane, with Bouvier at the controls. During the pursuit, three of the four tankers are destroyed. Sanchez attacks Bond aboard the final remaining tanker, which loses control and crashes. Soaked in petrol from the tanker, Sanchez attempts to kill Bond with his machete. Bond then reveals his cigarette lighter – the Leiters’ gift for being the best man at their wedding – and sets Sanchez on fire. Burning alive, Sanchez stumbles into the wrecked tanker and causes it to explode. Bouvier, driving the tractor from one of the destroyed tankers, rescues Bond.

Later, a party is held at Sanchez’s former residence. Bond receives a call from Leiter telling him that M is offering him his job back. Bond chooses to reject Lupe’s advances, suggesting the country’s president as a better match and romances Bouvier instead.


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