Introducing James Bond: Licence to Kill (1989)

I swear I have not given up on this series! We will make it to the end!!!


The second (and sadly last) outing for Timothy Dalton as James Bond came in 1989 and features the prototype of the “Bond goes rogue” story that Daniel Craig has told so very well in recent years. The run outside the law for Bond begins when his best friend Felix Leiter is left for dead by an infamous drug lord (and his new bride is left dead). Outraged, Bond demands they take action but the DEA won’t help because it’s out of their jurisdiction and MI6 doesn’t want him involved because they don’t want Bond’s emotions to cloud his judgement (any more than it already has). With his licence to kill revoked, Bond escapes custody and the chase is on for him to get revenge.

For the introductory title sequence, a title song was originally composed by Eric Clapton and Vic Flick (with a gritty sound to match Dalton’s performance) but the song was rejected and instead a performance by Gladys Knight was selected instead. It is one of the longest title tracks to appear in a Bond film and became a Top 10 hit in the UK.

Licence to Kill Title Sequence (1989)

Longtime Bond composer John Barry was not available for this film as he was recovering from throat surgery, so it fell to film composer Michael Kamen to compose and conduct the score for this film (Kamen is also known for composing Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and X-Men).

Taking place at the end of the 1980s, the James Bond series is once again beginning to see a style shift. Dalton’s two performances have already moved far away from Roger Moore’s over-the-top showings as the famed assassin, but Dalton’s successor, Pierce Brosnan, will complete the move, bringing a new sense of realism to the franchise, beyond what even Dalton does.


Credit to Art of the Title

Truthfully, I don’t watch the Dalton films as much as I should. Licence to Kill is considerably more gritty than The Living Daylights, and that can really wear on me at times. That being said, the visual style of the opening credits, as well as the song, are a fitting installment to the series. Kamen’s score is also noticeably lighter than John Barry’s usual work, and it provides a refreshing shakeup to the musical sound (no offense to John Barry’s work though).

Say farewell to Timothy Dalton and hello to Pierce Brosnan as the next installment features Goldeneye!! (And hopefully it won’t take two months to get there)

Check out the rest of the “Introducing James Bond” series here

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*poster and images are the property of Eon Productions


3 thoughts on “Introducing James Bond: Licence to Kill (1989)

  1. Paragraph Film Reviews

    Caught this on ITV 3+5 (for the 1,000,000th time) the other night. Such a shame that Dalton didn’t get another run at Bond as he was fantastic in this. Music isn’t really all that memorable though – even form last week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Introducing James Bond: The Living Daylights (1987) | Film Music Central

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