The movie of the late 80s that created a new subgenre (just check out every movie since that you can call “Die Hard On A *insert locale here*”), showed a great mix of intelligence with huge, explosive, set-pieces and pretty much raised the bar for modern action films. The greatness and impact of Die Hard is something that can’t really be underestimated. If you’ve heard someone try to tell you how good at is and have, somehow, yet to see it then get hold of it immediately and give it a watch. Because it IS as good as almost everyone says it is.
Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a cop who ends up in absolutely the wrong place at the wrong time when he flies to L.A. to join his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) at the Christmas party in her place of employment. It’s an imposing, expansive building and it’s about to be taken over by a number of terrorists, led by the intelligent and ruthless Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). McClane witnesses the violence and death and hides himself away to formulate a plan that will weaken and delay the terrorists until the local police can get involved. Unfortunately, the police don’t seem to be able to make any headway and so it is up to McClane to just ensure he becomes the biggest possible fly in the ointment while also trying, against ever-increasing odds, to stay alive.
Watch Die Hard as a straightforward action movie and you will have a fantastic time. The acting is superb, especially from Willis and Rickman (in roles that would, arguably, take their careers to another level) but also from Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Veljohnson and the consistently brilliant Hart Bochner and William Atherton. Not to mention the great turns from Paul Gleason, De’voreaux White (as Argyle the limo driver), Robert Davi, Grand L. Bush and everyone else involved, be they terrorist or cop or hostage.
But watch Die Hard as a lesson in how to make a classic action thriller with wit, intelligence, care and great moments of visceral excitement and you’d better have a pack of pens and a stack of notebooks beside you – because this is a template both revered and copied since the initial release in the late 1980s. The script, by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. De Souza, mixes in perfect character sketches with plot developments and escalating danger while the direction by John McTiernan keeps things entertaining and surprisingly light even as our hero takes an unbelievable beating on his way to trying to save the day.
It’s not a perfect film if you look out for plot holes and little technical errors but it IS a perfect film if you sit back and wait for non-stop action beat after action beat in a perfect blend of grit and blood-spattered tinsel.
Oh, and why is it classed as a Christmas movie? Here is the evidence I provide in my defence.
1) It takes place on Christmas Eve/Christmas.
2) It stars a female character named Holly.
3) The soundtrack has at least one Christmas classic on there.
4) The limo driver is named Argyle (after the knitting pattern, perhaps?).
5) Alan Rickman says “ho ho ho” at one point.
6) The plot revolves around someone trying to haul ass with a bunch of goodies before a sweaty, red-faced guy comes down from the roof to sort out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
7) Oh, and there are twelve terrorists led into the building by Rickman which is surely no coincidence either. The 12 “daze” of Christmas, maybe?”
8.) It features one miracle, though not a traditional one. “You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the FBI.”
Not a movie that you have to save for Christmas, by any means, but it certainly DOES count as a Christmas movie, in my book.
DIRECTOR: JOHN MCTIERNAN
WRITER: JEB STUART, STEVEN E. DE SOUZA, BASED ON THE NOVEL “NOTHING LASTS FOREVER” BY RODERICK THORP
STARS: BRUCE WILLIS, ALAN RICKMAN, BONNIE BEDELIA, REGINALD VELJOHNSON, WILLIAM ATHERTON, PAUL GLEASON, HART BOCHNER, DE’VOREAUX WHITE, ROBERT DAVI, GRAND L. BUSH
RUNTIME: 131 MINS APPROX