Tuesday, December 13, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: DIE HARD

Welcome to Day 13 of our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series, where we will be taking a look at holiday classics each day in the lead up to Christmas. Today we have the quintessential Christmas action classic, DIE HARD.

Die Hard is a classic 1988 action film directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis as action hero John McClane, as well as Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson, and Bonnie Bedelia. The film has our hero, McClane, travelling out to California to be with his estranged wife at a Christmas party when their office building is taken over by a group of thieves/terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Rickman). This is absolutely an action classic and a quintessential Christmas film.

On the positive side of things, this film does a spectacular job giving us a hero we can truly appreciate and get behind right from the get-go. Basically everything in the set up to John McClane is about how average he is, and even when he starts to take action he is constantly afraid and is even reduced by his wife as just “doing his job.” This makes us really care about him and his struggle. It also adds believability to a film that is definitely over the top in the extreme. When you have this layer at the character level though it develops great buy in which is why this is an action classic.

The performances in this film are also great. Bruce Willis embodies McClane extremely well. Reginald VelJohnson is sidelined from the action for the film, but even he is excellent (with one monologue and one other moment in particular). Finally, Alan Rickman is the actor that owns this movie. This was the first feature film of his illustrious career and he is brilliant as Hans Gruber. Creative, menacing, interesting, Gruber is a villain you can follow, and want to follow, at every twist and turn in his plan. Rickman’s performance gives the well written role a gravitas that a lesser actor could not have hoped to achieve.

The film also manages to incorporate its Christmas setting well. The fact that this is a Christmas party keeps coming up. Turning power-off at Christmas is a plot point. Most importantly, it gives brilliant ground for great one-liners and gags based on the holiday that give this movie a kind of spunk most of the action films in this era lacked (and a spunk that possibly only the Christmas season could provide).

There are few negatives in a film like Die Hard. I think the biggest negative that can be said for it is how poorly it has held up over time. The film does not look particularly good, or well shot, in this day in age (even when upscaled on a high-definition standard). The plot of the film also has not stood the test of time (as cellphones would definitely solve much of the drama in this film). I also found many of the side characters to only have minimal development. This was fine overall, but the film could have been enhanced with a little more development there.

Overall, Die Hard is an excellent film. It certainly subverts some tropes of its genre whilst going whole hog into some other tropes. It has wonderful characters and an interesting story. A true action staple and Christmas classic! A must watch without a doubt!

Ryan’s Score: 9/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new Christmas review every day, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you singing carols next!

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