Even when he’s having fun, Timothy Dalton doesn’t look like he’s having fun. As Licence to Kill begins, he’s glowering in a morning coat on his way to the wedding of Felix Leiter (David Hedison), a CIA agent and Bond’s best friend insofar as he has any. So when a Coast Guard helicopter touches down on the highway in front of them — Forget the wedding, there’s a drug bust going down! — it’s an opportunity for Bond to get back to some good old-fashioned people shooting.
Bond and Leiter are in pursuit of drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), and while they do get to shoot some people, making Bond grimace happily, Sanchez manages to escape on a small plane. They give chase in the Coast Guard helicopter, and in a fairly impressive bit of stuntwork, lasso the plane with the helicopter’s skyhook. Then it’s off to the wedding, where Bond and Leiter parachute from the helicopter and land in front of the church to rousing cheers. Lucky woman.
Dalton got flak for what’s still considered the stoniest of Bond portrayals, and it’s true that the only time you see him smile in the intro to Licence to Kill is when he’s turned upside down. But it probably wouldn’t have seemed so bad if the filmmakers hadn’t surrounded Bond with people who were so intent on cheering him up. Felix Leiter is almost obnoxiously enthusiastic here — he’s like a groom trying to make sure the best man is having fun at his own bachelor party. Which, in truth, is exactly what’s happening.