Oh look, another non-anime review. Actually, this was holiday viewing because it is about the only movie everyone in my family agreed on that had a Christmas theme so here we go.
John McClane has been invited to a Christmas party at the company his wife works at. While there, a group of armed terrorists take over the building and take the party goers hostage. Now, John, a cop from New York is trapped in the building and has to face the terrorists to try to free the hostages.
Okay, if you watch action movies you have already seen Die Hard. It is a classic and a staple of the genre. Bruce Willis, when he still had hair, making sarcastic quips on the radio while limping around the building carrying a gun and wearing the signature white singlet (ignore the part in the movie where it obviously changes colour and then returns to being a dirty-white singlet, nobody likes you pointing out too many continuity errors) and the police outside being totally useless. It is a classic for a reason and while most of what happens is now considered cliche and Die Hard didn’t do it first, it definitely did it well.
Breaking it down, probably the best thing the movie did was cast Bruce Willis. I am not a massive Bruce Willis fan, I find his movies hit and miss, but Bruce Willis is John McClane. I can’t imagine another actor delivering those lines and giving a performance as believable as Bruce Willis did and to be honest when the terrorists were having hissy fits and his wife pointed out that nobody can drive someone crazy like John I totally believed it. This casting is so important to everything in this movie as it is the glue that holds all the other parts together.
As for the remaining cast members, they are a bit hit and miss. More of less anyone could have been the wife and most of the minor terrorists are only there to add to the body count. The cops outside are all kind of cookie-cutter characters with various levels of incompetence and the limo-driver serves pretty much no purpose. But, Alan Rickman, as Hans and the leader of the terrorists, is perfect. He delivers a great performance as a villain and the play between Hans and John has some great chemistry which just adds to the experience and you genuinely want to see these two face off. The other character of note is Sgt. Powell, one of the only cops outside who seems to have a functioning brain and the one John spends a lot of time on the radio with. Though these characters don’t actually meet until the end, they build a fairly solid relationship over the course of the movie.
As a narrative there are no surprises. You have your hero of the story who goes through a series of trials and set backs on his way to accomplishing a single, established goal. The only real surprise you will have is the wonder of how John McClane has not died at least six times before we get to the end of the film.
But, what it gives us in exchange for a very by the numbers plot are some truly memorable set pieces and lines. Yeah, the hero takes out each of the baddies, working his way up to the leader with the stakes getting higher as he runs out of weapons, and blood given how many wounds he accumulates, but what really makes this film memorable is that each scene is crafted to be memorable. There’s the C4 in the elevator shaft moment, the jumping off the roof with the fire hose moment, the glass shooting scene, the dead man in the elevator in the santa hat, etc, etc. Each action set up works and is striking in how it plays out so you aren’t getting bored by the same sneak up, shoot and kill over and over, or just guns blazing and shouting every single scene. Too many modern action movies go for repetitive action while changing settings rather than changing up the actual action itself. And, that carries over to all the Die Hard sequels (though some of those are pretty terrible). The action sequences are diverse even if the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
So, if you haven’t yet seen this movie and you were looking for a ‘Christmas’ movie that has a touching resolution but doesn’t get so sweet it makes you roll your eyes, Die Hard is probably a good choice. There’s definitely blood, violence and a little bit of swearing, but by today’s standards it’s a pretty tame movie visually but it is good mindless fun.