Even though Christmas is over, the title still stands, this is the ultimate movie for Christmastime, but it can be watched year-round for full enjoyment. Aside from being the ultimate Christmas movie, this is one of the absolute best action movies ever, certainly a fine reason why the 80's was THE decade for action movies.
It's Christmas Eve, and a New York Cop named John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies into Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife, but things go awry when a group of German terrorists/thieves led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) invade the office building and cut off any possible contact to keep hostages from calling the cops. The only one out of Gruber's control is McClane, who desperately and quickly has to come up with ways to stop the terrorists.
What separates most action movies from Die Hard is that the hero, McClane, is very vulnerable. This creates a lot of tension while watching the movie, and I'd even say that compared to even the best action movies, Die Hard probably has the largest amount of tension because even after the initial viewings, I was still riddled with tension in the scenes where McClane gets really hurt.
This is where the characters come in. Because of the fact that John McClane is such a vulnerable protagonist, he's more believable as a person and this vulnerability makes him creative with his plans to weed out the terrorists infesting the Nakatomi building. While it's natural to root for the action hero for an action movie, you're rooting for McClane even harder to win because he faces steeper obstacles than most other action heroes. Rickman, despite being an Englishman, manages to pull off a rather convincing German accent. He also does a great job playing a slimy terrorist leader, since he has no problem personally killing his hostages and has a smooth charisma that keeps him from going into over-the-top territory.
The supporting cast is solid as well. Reginald Vel Johnson does a great job as Al Powell, a police officer whose the first to uncover the clandestine terror heist Gruber and his cronies are conducting by McClane throwing a dead terrorist's body on his car just as he's about to leave the Nakatomi plaza (with humorous effects). I must say, as a kid of the 90's, it was weird seeing Vel Johnson spew profanity and even be in this type of movie because of the fact that I grew up watching Family Matters (where he played Carl Winslow). Bonnie Bedelia is solid as Holly Gennaro-McCane, John McClane's estranged wife. The actors playing Gruber's cronies all do a good job, particular Alexander Godunov as Karl, Hans's right-hand man, since they're all good at being loathsome and menacing.
The action scenes in Die Hard are top notch and highly memorable. The action scenes, going along with the premise of a highly-vulnerable protagonist, exercise a great deal of creativity with the methods of combat McClane adapts to make it out alive. For example, after the LAPD arrive in droves in response to claims of terrorists in the building, they deploy an armored car, but Gruber's cronies start attacking it with a tripod-mounted anti-tank guided missile launcher. Because McClane is several stories above the attackers, he drops a block of C4 strapped to a broken computer monitor and computer chair down to the floor the anti-tank personnel are to wipe them out. McClane eventually gets confronted by one of the terrorists and engage in a brutal gun and hand-to-hand fight. This ends with McClane beating one of the terrorists and hanging him with a bunch of chains. When the top floor of the Nakatomi building is blown up, McClane escapes by swinging from a firehose he tied to himself and breaks through a glass window to get somewhere safe, but the spool holding the hose breaks loose and falls, dragging McClane towards the edge of the floor, and has to quickly untie himself so he doesn't plummet to his grave. That scene was really, really tense.
This is R-rated for good reason. Being a top-tier action movie, there's a good deal of bloody violence and death infesting this masterpiece. Towards the beginning of the ordeal, Gruber executes Takagi, the executive of the Nakatomi corporation, since he won't cooperate with Gruber, and you see a bunch of blood gush against the glass wall during the execution (which looks realistic and really daunting). One of the hardest scenes to watch is when McClane (whose barefoot throughout the whole ordeal against Gruber), has to flee a group of terrorists through a floor covered in broken glass. This leads to a scene where McClane hides in one of the bathrooms to pull out the glass shards out of his bloody feet. There's even some nudity towards the beginning when one of the terrorists grabs one of the female hostages and pulls down her party dress to reveal her breasts, and McClane bumps into a calendar depicting a nude female model a few times in one of the rooms under construction in the building.
The music in Die Hard is top notch. Overall, it's rather daunting and exciting, and the music is a perfect fit for the type of movie being played here. Michael Kamen did a great job with the music here, and he'd do really well with the soundtrack for Event Horizon nine years after this. There's even a Christmas song done by Run-DMC played towards the beginning of the movie, and some other Christmas tunes being played to bring about the “Christmas feeling” to this movie.
While this thankfully isn't a dated movie by any stretch, there's some bits of dialogue and character details that make it a perfect snapshot of the 80's. For example, when Argyle (McClane's limo driver) brags about all the gadgets in the limousine, he brags about it having VHS. Also, when the terrorist heist catches wind of the media, the reporter states that Gruber is the head of a West German terrorist organization. I guess it's because the Berlin Wall collapsed when I was only two years-old, this particular element certainly shows its age, but like I said earlier, it doesn't deter any enjoyment to be had in this film.
This is an action movie masterpiece, and probably John McTiernan's best film. If you love action movies and this isn't in your collection, get this in your collection right now.
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