Licence to Kill

From Academic Kids

This article is about the James Bond film. For the concept in real situations, see licence to kill (concept).

Template:BondInfo Licence to Kill (released in the United States as License to Kill, but sold in the U.S. home video market with the British spelling) is the sixteenth film in the James Bond film series made by EON Productions. Released in 1989, Licence to Kill is the fifth and last film directed by John Glen, and Timothy Dalton's second, and final James Bond film.

Licence to Kill is one of the least financially successful James Bond films for three reasons. First, its violence led to its "15" rating, which banned British children from seeing it in the U.K.; in the U.S., it was the first Bond film rated PG-13. Second, this is an adult spy movie, and not every audience took to Dalton's accurately dark portrayal of James Bond, although it is acknowledged that his interpretation is closest to Ian Fleming's secret agent character. Third, a late title change severely affected the marketing and promotion. (see Trivia for details).

This was the first EON Productions James Bond film to use a title not derived from either an Ian Fleming novel or a short story. It does, however, contain elements and characters from Fleming's novel, Live and Let Die and the short story, "The Hildebrand Rarity" (from the For Your Eyes Only collection). This would be the last James Bond film to make direct use of Ian Fleming's concepts and characters until Die Another Day (2002).


Plot summary

The story opens with Bond and his friend, DEA agent Felix Leiter, capturing the drug lord Franz Sanchez as he attempts to flee Key West, Forida. The sequence ends with Bond and Leiter parachuting to Leiter's wedding.

In the same day, Sanchez escapes with the help of turncoat DEA agent, Killifer, by offering anyone who helps him escape two million dollars. On their honeymoon night, Leiter and his wife, Della, are captured by henchmen of Franz Sánchez. Leiter is bound and lowered into a shark tank; the shark bites off the lower half of one of his legs. Bond comes on the scene after Sánchez's agents depart; he finds Leiter barely alive, and his bride dead (villain Darío's dialogue strongly implies she was gang-raped before being killed). Apart from giving Felix a wife, this portion of the film is closely modeled on a previously unfilmed chapter of Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die novel down to a furious James Bond almost immediately sets out to hunt and kill those involved in his friends' torture, mutilation, and killing.

M meets Bond in Key West's Hemingway House and orders him to an assignment in Istanbul, Turkey. Refusing, Bond says he's staying ("Sir, the Americans aren't going to do anything!"), but M refuses, claiming that Bond's vendetta could easily compromise the British Government. M again orders Bond to Istanbul, and Bond responds by resigning. M orders that Bond's resignation is effective immediately, and revokes his licence to kill; Bond then escapes from the House, bereft of official MI6 backing, but surreptitiously helped by armourer Q, who voluntarily joins Bond while pretending to be on leave.

Bond journeys to the Latin American country of "Isthmus" (read "Panama"), and swiftly works his way into Sánchez's inner circle (knowing Sánchez prizes loyalty above all else, Bond frames Sánchez's key lieutenants, turning him against them). In the course of that, Bond learns that Sánchez's scientists can render cocaine chemically undetectable by dissolving it in gasoline, and then sell it, disguised as fuel, to Asian drug dealers. The buying and selling are conducted via the fundraising television programs of the fake American televangelist Professor Joe Butcher. The re-integration process will be available to those underworld clients who can pay Sánchez's price. CIA agent-pilot Pam Bouvier, one of Leiter's informants, aids Bond in Isthmus, and again as he destroys Sánchez's processing plant. Bond pursues Sánchez as he escapes with four tank trucks filled with cocaine-gasoline. The tanker that Bond and Sánchez fight on crashes, rolls down a hillside, and Sánchez has Bond at the point of his machete, but Bond pulls out a cigarrette lighter, given him by Felix and Della at their wedding, and sets Sánchez afire, who then stumbles into the wrecked tanker truck's cistern, causing it's cocaine-gasoline to explode.

Later, Bond and Q are attending a party at Sánchez's residence. Bond takes a telephone call from Felix, informing him that M is offering Bond his job (despite Bond's ingratiating himself to the villain at the cost of the lives of several Hong Kong narcotics agents and another MI6 agent stationed in the Republic of Isthmus). Afterwards, Bond joins Pam in the house's swimming pool, to consummate their tryst.

Cast & characters



Missing image
Original Licence to Kill soundtrack cover

Initially Eric Clapton and Vic Flick were planned to write and perform the theme song to Licence to Kill, however, when that prospect fell apart, Gladys Knight's song and performance was chosen. The end credits of the film feature "If You Asked Me To", sung by Patti LaBelle; years later the song would be remade and would be a hit for singer Céline Dion.

The soundtrack was composed by Michael Kamen, who is best known for composing the soundtrack for the first three Die Hard films and all four Lethal Weapon films.

Track listing

  1. License to Kill — Gladys Knight
  2. Wedding Party — Ivory
  3. Dirty Love — Tim Feehan
  4. Pam Listen
  5. If You Asked Me To — Patti LaBelle
  6. James & Felix on Their Way to Church
  7. His Funny Valentine
  8. Sanchez Is in the Bahamas/Shark Fishing
  9. Ninja
  10. Licence Revoked

Vehicles & gadgets

Main articles: List of James Bond vehicles, List of James Bond gadgets
  • Dentonite Toothpaste - Plastic explosives disguised as ordinary toothpaste. The receiver that picks up the signal from Bond to blow the explosives is disguised as a packet of cigarettes.
  • Signature Camera Gun - A camera that when put together became a sniper rifle that only worked for Bond, due to a scanner built into the grip.
  • Laser Polaroid Camera - When the flash is used on this camera, it shoots a laser. The pictures it takes are X-rayed.
  • Exploding Alarm Clock - Q carries it with him to Isthmus, but it is not used. Guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it.


Film locations

Shooting locations

Licence to Kill is the only James Bond film to date not to have used a film studio in the UK.


  • The film's original title was Licence Revoked, however, test screenings in the USA showed audiences misunderstood the word 'revoked' (reportedly thinking it referred to driving licences), and the title was changed to Licence to Kill. Moreover, a large amount of promotional materials had already been produced with the original title, and the delay in producing corrected materials negatively affected the marketing and promotion of the film. Also, the new title caused confusion as the British spelling of "Licence" conflicted with the American "License".
  • The story of Felix Leiter's shark attack was originally in the book Live and Let Die, although in the book Leiter in addition to losing a leg, loses an arm. The tactic Sanchez uses for smuggling drugs into the United States also comes from Live and Let Die.
  • James Bond is never shown in the film wearing a necktie, although he does wear a bow tie for a brief period.


Missing image
1989 British paperback.

Licence to Kill was the first James Bond film since Moonraker to be novelized. Then-current Bond novelist John Gardner was commissioned to write the novel based upon the screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson. Gardner was faced with a challenge because his books maintain the continuity of Ian Fleming's original novels (albeit updated), and, in Fleming's and Gardner's continuity, Felix Leiter lost his leg in a shark attack in Live and Let Die. As a result, Gardner's book requires readers to suspend disbelief as James Bond comes to terms with his friend being maimed twice using the same method - complete with the same note ("He disagreed with something that ate him"). Gardner does not attempt to reconcile the return of Milton Krest, who, supposedly, was killed in Fleming's short story "The Hildebrand Rarity".

The novelization takes place outside the timeline of Gardner's other Bond novels, as his next book, Brokenclaw, disregards the events of Licence to Kill. It also appears that the novelization takes place sometime prior to Gardner's novel Win, Lose or Die in which Bond is promoted to Captain (in the novelization, as in the movie, Bond is still a Commander).


Comic book adaptation

Licence to Kill was adapted as a graphic novel by writer-artist Mike Grell, who would go on to write several original James Bond comic books. The adaptation was published in both hardcover and paperback editions by Eclipse Comics in 1989.

External links


de:Lizenz zum Töten

sv:Tid för hämnd


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