Licence To Kill may see Bond going it alone from MI6, but its transfer keeps the British end up with an AVC encode that delivers a crisp, detailed and beautifully coloured 2.35:1 image.
Released previously on Blu, though only on US disc, this edition showcases the same transfer … and it is a good one.
This is a colourful movie, and one that has lots of flames, lots of sunshine, and lots of cool blue ocean vistas. The underwater photography throws up no problems, with the yellows and pale blues of the submersibles and the sun-filtered sea never getting smoky or murky. Black shapes, such as the divers, or the manta-ray disguise that Bond uses, appear convincingly against this translucent background. Costumes – the blazing red dress of Talisa Soto and the blue shirts of Krest’s men, for example – are well rendered without popping too distractingly, and offer a scintillating array of visual punctuation around the frame. The casino looks especially inviting, with warm browns and intoxicatingly plush surroundings. Lush greens, a smooth array of blues and bright oranges, for those retina-searing fireballs, complete the robust and sumptuous display of hues.
Skin-tones are very good, their overall fidelity and saturation consistent. Close-up detail is fine, but although Dalton’s face has as many lines and features as Connery’s, you won’t find yourself spending anywhere near the same amount of time scrutinising them. Carey Lowell’s eyes, however, and those luscious legs – now that’s a different story. I could watch them all day long and never get bored. Grimmer details are also more apparent than they have been before. Licence To Kill is certainly the bloodiest of the Bonds, and there are many spots and splashes of gore to be seen, which look bright and lurid. The stump left behind after the shark takes a chomp from Felix is plainly visible. The thick, lumpy mess that Krest’s balloon-head makes on the window offers up a gloopy collage of red and scarlet and chunky dark gristle. Background detail is also very good. This enables trees and buildings, the people gathered in the crowd at the Leiter’s doomed wedding and those around the casino, and later during the pell-mell rush from Isthmus City, to retain clarity and definition. Given the anamorphic photography, there is some softness during certain shots. You’ll notice when Sanchez gives his little speech to the Japanese, for example. But this is inherent to the source.
Contrast is excellent throughout, and the presentation of black levels is tremendously deep and offers thoroughly fantastic and altogether quite engrossing shadow-play. When Bond and Sharkey go sneaking under and then up into Krest’s harbour fishery the image is full of midnight blues and spot-on blacks, for example. Or when 007 returns to Felix’s house to gain information, and later when he is thwarted by the Hong Kong ninjas. Depth is, therefore, very rewarding, even allowing for a great three-dimensional feel during this night-time sequences. Pinpoints of light shine with absolute realism during this scenes, too. Very good stuff. In fact, Licence To Kill provides possibly the best black levels to be found in the box set, until we reach the Daniel Craig discs.
On the digital front, I had no major issues at all. The transfer exhibits nothing in the way of edge enhancement or aliasing. Panning shots betray no shimmering on patterns or small details. There is no smearing or banding going on. Some vague unpleasantness can be caused by fragmentary DNR rearing its ugly head – although the image retains its grain and its film-like texture, there are occasions when faces can betray the hint of digital smoothing. It is a small sacrifice, though, because Dalton’s second mission is superbly rendered, otherwise, and often quite captivating to behold. A very strong 8 out of 10.
Once again, we get to hear Bond’s exploits in DTS-HD MA 5.1, as per the rest of the twenty-two titles that join Licence To Kill in this lavish box set.
Surround use is frequently of the most minimal of bleed-through, but it is pretty well handled and adds a pleasing, if slight, immersive quality to the track. There’s nothing bogus added to what was initially a Dolby Surround mix, and the few wraparound elements come across as being fairly natural without sounding unnecessarily boosted or stretched. The spread across the front is appreciably wide, and the main thrust is understandably driven primarily at you.
The centre keeps dialogue crisp and clear at all times, and there is no dislocating of voices when it comes to movement of the speakers around, or off the frame. The late Michael Kamen’s jangling, percussive score – so like his contemporary work on Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Road House – has some room to breathe. As I’ve already stated, his music isn’t very memorable, but it still suits the settings and the style of Bond’s renegade mission. The songs that dominate the soundtrack have warmth and range, with the two ballads that bookend the film receiving a very likeable presentation. Bass elements and vocals work emphatically well.
There is some heft to the track, which I like. We benefit from some good solid explosions – trucks go up in flames and the Isthmus City complex suffers a few shuddering crunches. Bond’s explosive charges pack a wallop, and Heller’s tank supplies a few timber-rattling jolts when it unloads upon the captured 007 and the Hong Kong agents. The movement of vehicles have some degree of weight and directionality, and the sound of planes, another well-used element in the mix, comes across with vigour. They all possess a nice, though limited range of channel-steerage. Gunfire is reasonably solid, and although hardly air-punching across the soundscape, shots don’t sound tinny or hollow. There is some clout to them.
It’s not the most challenging or detailed of mixes, but some nuances are present. Great little organic pop as Krest’s head goes explosively soggy. A cool thwipp! from the spear-guns. The shattering of glass during the big Dentonite eruption. The flip of the Felix lighter. Geddit? The Felix lighter? Ahh, forget it.
Overall, this gets a very respectable 7 out of 10.
The usual categories are strictly adhered to – a retro making-of, featurettes, potted, piecemeal commentaries and a slew of marketing material.
Audio Commentary with director John Glen and cast and crew.
Audio Commentary with producer/co-writer Michael G. Wilson with cast and crew.
Inside Licence to Kill - half-hour retrospective documentary.
Behind the Scenes – various aspects of the film looked at.
Kenworth Truck Stunt Film- 10-minute documentary about the trucks that were specially designed for the stunt-filled climax.
Licence to Kill Music Video – Gladys Knight sings the title song. “Got a licence to kill-tuh!!!”
If You Asked Me To Music Video– from Patti Labelle.
Bond '89 – Dalton discusses his approach to Bond.
On Set With John Glen -10 minutes with the director reminiscing.
On Set With Peter Lamont – 5 minutes with the production designer.
Ground Check with Corky Farnoff – a brief look at the aerial stunts, courtesy of their co-ordinator.
Deleted Scenes – 11 minutes worth.
Trailers and Stills Gallery
I had a massive 360-degree change-of-heart over this title, but then my initial thoughts about it, however long I may have held them, were tainted by outside factors. Licence To Kill is a great Bond film, even if it does stray from the well-worn path, and a damn fine thriller in its own right. It benefits from a deadly assured Dalton and two fabulous villains in Robert Davi and Benecio Del Toro, as well as the pure sex appeal of Carey Lowell as a much better written and better acted Bond babe than is usually offered.
The screenplay is tight and darkly woven around a realistic scenario. The 80’s bogeyman of the Columbian drug-baron makes for a surprisingly volatile and complex adversary for 007 to tangle with, and Dalton’s brutally single-minded hero carves an altogether more mean-spirited path of destruction than his usual MI6-sanctioned escapades.
OHMSS had been a long ago, and it was about time that Bond threw his weight around again.
Felix Leiter gets his leg snipped off by a shark, and this leads to Bond pursuing a ferocious one-man vendetta against the vicious drug-lord responsible. Anthony Zerbe gets a very inflated opinion of himself, whilst Robert Davi gets extremely hot under the collar and Benecio De Toro rises above a crushing sense of defeat at Bond’s hands to become the breakout star of the piece. On the glamour front, Carey Lowell beats Talisa Soto in every department and, musically, Michael Kamen comes up with a very decent, albeit pop-orientated score in the wake of John Barry’s departure from the franchise.
The transfer is strong and vibrant, with a cool lossless remix, and the extras are a fine bunch to go alongside the most controversial Bond story until Daniel Craig took on the role.
An essential part of the Bond collection, Licence To Kill revealed that 007 could move with the times and take on, and beat the sort of villainy that everybody can relate to.
An excellent film.
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