Die Hard (1988) Retrospective

Greetings, Gothamites!

Christmas Eve. 1988. NYPD officer John McClane joins his estranged wife Holly for a Christmas party in Los Angeles. It goes to heck in a handbasket and cinematic history is made.

I’m not here to argue about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Personally, I think it is. But if you don’t, that’s fine too. However, can we all agree that it is a damn great film? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best action movies came from the late 80s and early 90s. There are exceptions — Gerard Butler’s Has Fallen series is explosive goodness — but they are just that … exceptions.

Some of my favourite things are the relatively inoffensive ways Die Hard shows it is from a completely different time. Some of the earliest are John McClane with a gun on his person while on a passenger aircraft and the one immediately after is when he lights up a smoke in LAX. Not to mention, everything that happens would have been solved if he had a smartphone, took a video of the terrorists and posted it to Twitter. #YippeeKiYay 

Hans Gruber is evil and his henchmen are by no means good guys, but the real villain of the film is the door guy who makes John look up Holly’s name to locate her — thus exposing that she is using her maiden name — even though once he has done this, the door guy says the only people left in the building are all in the same place. 

And while we’re on the topic, John is great and all, but Argyle is one of the best heroes of this film. From a humble chatty cabbie to a classy limo driver to the guy who single-handedly stops the bad guys escaping in an ambulance? Argyle is winning in character development, despite only having like 5 minutes of screen time. 

Alan Rickman is the epitome of intelligent calm villain. He dominates every scene he is in with a commanding stage presence that oozes menace. I particularly like the way Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is the musical theme for Hans and his crazy crew, starting off slow and almost sombre before rising to a triumphant crescendo. Unfortunately for Hans, the only place to go from a crescendo is down. Thirty-five floors down. Hey-oooo.

Conversely, Bruce Willis nails the everyman hero that John McClane embodies. The classic one-liners, the terrible people skills, the exceptional survival and innovation skills. Does he get hurt? Sure. But he yanks that glass out of his foot and keeps limping on. I would have drawn the line at crawling through the tiny air duct because, let’s face it, most air ducts are nowhere near that clean.

From Bruce Willis’s signature incredulous look at his fellow air passenger to Hans Gruber’s terrified look while falling to his death, Die Hard is just delightful fun.

If you have a different take or would like to chat about what you’ve been watching and reading, drop a comment here or hit me up on Twitter!


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