Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Jeb Stuart
Duration: 2hrs 11mins
Rating: 5 out of 5
With Christmas fast approaching, it's the perfect time to re-visit the best seasonal movie of them all. And what can you possibly say about Die Hard? A couple of things spring to mind immediately. Firstly, I absolutely love it. Secondly, it is definitely not the greatest action movie of all time. How come? Two words: no shotguns! How can you consider it the complete shoot ‘em up experience when there’s no pump-action action?
Minor quibble aside, the film is, of course, a masterpiece. Not every modestly budgeted popcorn flick starring a prematurely balding TV actor goes on to birth its own subgenre. Like his namesake Carpenter’s best work, John Campbell McTiernan Jr. delivers a taut, claustrophobic movie that spans a less than 24-hour period, with no prologue, epilogue or any other unnecessary padding.
|EXPLOSIONS: SURELY TOP OF EVERYONE'S XMAS LIST|
Classic set pieces come thick and fast: McClane’s first run in with a foe (“Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister!”); under the table in the boardroom (“Thanks for the advice!”); the lift shaft and air vent (“Now I know what a TV dinner feels like….”); the homemade C4 bomb (“Let's see you take this under advisement, jerkweed!”); the fire hose jump (“I promise I will never even think about going up in a tall building again…”). Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart’s script may be easy to pick quips from, but it’s no mere barrage of one-liners: it’s crafted tighter than a kettle drum and delivers an outer challenge for its protagonist (thwart the bad guys and save the day) that exists in perfect tandem with his inner conflict (salvage his ailing marriage). The cast is littered with memorable supporting characters (Sergeant Al Powell, FBI Agents Johnson and Johnson, Deputy Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson, Karl, Ellis, Thornburg…) and, of course, Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber.
But this is Bruce Willis’ film.
|WE GET: SMIRKY...|
|... ER, JUMPY...|
|... AND, FINALLY, VICTORIOUS|
|"IT'S CHRISTMAS, THEO! IT'S THE TIME OF MIRACLES!"|
The Moonlighting veteran takes the opportunity to make his mark on the big screen and runs with it. McClane is an action hero who doesn’t steamroll his way through challenges with brute force but instead relies on his wits and tenacity. He’s still good in a scrap, naturally, but is ultimately a vulnerable human being who just wants to get through the night alive. Die Hard ushered in the more sensitive 90s action movie era, and the scene where McClane sits alone on a sink pulling glass out of his foot and nearly breaks into tears radioing Powell an apologetic message for his wife is powerful stuff, belying any notion of Willis not being a capable actor. The fact that Bruce’s tendency for choosing duds meant he never quite lived up to his potential as a challenger to Schwarzenegger (who is cheekily name-checked here) and Stallone remains one of cinema’s greatest tragedies.
Oh, and what is the best action movie of all time? I dunno; Hard Boiled, probably. *****