Film of the Week: Die Hard (1988)

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John McTiernan directs Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and Bonnie Bedelia in this Christmas Eve action thriller about an off duty cop trapped in a skyscraper with some financially motivated hostage takers. 

I really don’t need to sing Die Hard’s praises, I’ve never met anyone of any stripe, age, creed or colour who does not love it. And I wouldn’t want to. We all know it is something special – the golden crown of modern Hollywood filmmaking studded with jewels of blisteringly involving action, whipsmart black comedy, a mature romance and a blanket of cynicism not in anyway managing to cover a whole mountain of ancillary festive cheer. I first watched it on pirate video, at one point concurrently owned the official widescreen VHS special edition and a taped version off TV with break for the News at Ten slapbang in the middle, have burnt through various DVD copies and presently have the Ultimate Die Hard collection boxset sitting proudly in my BluRay stack. I’m not going to rush now and pick it apart… no doubt I’ll do a big franchise overview at some point soon… but if I could just put my finger on why what should be just another orgy of mindless violence works quite so well… In my opinion, it is the unusually indepth attention to character. Not just in the cinematic icon that is John McClane (“He’s an easy guy to like, but a hard man to kill” as the gravelly trailer voice man sold him to us as… McClane is just ordinary guy right down to his maybe-has-been-in-a-few-drunken-bar-brawls fighting ‘technique’, we all know this bloke), but all the dramatis personae has been cast, named, lavished with a semblance of real humanity so that even Terrorist #12 has a quirky sweet tooth, the electricity worker his own shit he’s dealing with and we can read years of backstory between a hack journalist and an anchorman in one simple foul mouthed exchange. Die Hard is like a stick of rock in that care runs through it consistently from tip to toe, a Christmas pudding in that all manner of tasty stuff is crammed throughout it so it never gets dull or predictable. Typing this, I really want to just watch it again right now.

Marco: No more table! Where are you going to go now? Let me give you some advice: Next time you have the chance to kill someone, don’t hesitate!
John McClane: (Kills him) Thanks for the advice.

And I never even mentioned Rickman’s Hans Gruber…

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