No Time to Die takes a key story element of Timothy Dalton’s 1989 Bond movie Licence to Kill and gives it to Daniel Craig’s James Bond.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for No Time To Die
No Time to Die takes the best story of Timothy Dalton’s Bond from Licence to Kill and gives it to Daniel Craig. The 25th James Bond film is now released in most markets and critics are calling it a fitting conclusion to Daniel Craig’s tenure as the British secret agent. Craig’s gritty and realistic interpretation of the character echo’s Dalton’s portrayal from his two outings in the late ’80s: The Living Daylights, and Licence to Kill.
Timothy Dalton sought to bring the James Bond films back closer to the spy Ian Fleming wrote about, as opposed to the gadget-laden larger-than-life adventures they had become in Roger Moores’ day. There was a mixed success with this approach. While Dalton’s first Bond movie The Living Daylights was a hit with audiences and critics, Licence to Kill disappointed upon release in 1989. It entered a crowded market of summer blockbusters such as Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, and Lethal Weapon 2. This competition, combined with its increased violence and humorless approach compared to previous Bond movies, resulted in it not connecting with audiences.
No Time to Die lifts a major story element of Dalton’s film regarding Bond’s CIA friend and ally Felix Leiter. Licence to Kill centers on Bond going rogue to exact revenge on the drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) after he orders an attack on Felix, and murders Leiter’s wife on their wedding night. Felix is betrayed by a colleague and lowered into a pool containing a shark, maiming him, though he survives. In No Time to Die, Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter is not so lucky, being shot by double agent Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen). Felix dies from his wound, and Bond is forced to leave him as the boat they’re on sinks. Bond gets his revenge in each film, setting a petroleum-soaked Sanches on fire (with the lighter given to him by Felix as a best man present), and crushing Ash with a car as he lies helpless beneath it.
Both movies have Leiter being double-crossed by a man he thought was on his side, and Bond’s revenge shows him at his most bloodthirsty, with no remorse or pity for the men responsible for his friends’ fate. While he’s has had plenty of allies over the years, arguably Felix Leiter is James Bond’s friend first and an ally second. In No Time to Die, the pair are shown enjoying a drinking game together in one of the film’s few scenes of levity. Whereas his other allies tend to range from “tolerated” to “respected,” Bond genuinely considers Felix a friend. In Licence to Kill the pair are even closer, with Bond being the best man at his wedding. James Bond’s pain at what happens to Felix in each story is palpable.
Licence to Kill, and Timothy Dalton’s take on James Bond, was ahead of its time. Audiences weren’t ready for 007 to be gritty and realistic. The film has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, seen as an example of the series daring to stray from the established formula, as well as a precursor to what Daniel Craig would do 17 years later in Casino Royale. No Time to Die strikes a fine line between including all the established tropes expected of the almost 60-year-old franchise, while also taking several risks in Craig’s final adventure. Giving him an element of Dalton’s best story is a fine example of both.
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