Written by Wan Tyskiewicz
It’s not Christmas time in our house until we’ve watched the first three ‘Die Hard’ films back to back. The DVDs come out of the cupboard at the end of November and if it’s a busy week then they might get watched on three consecutive nights. If it’s a really hectic year then we have to settle for ‘Die Hard’ on its own – which is fine because it’s probably the best of the bunch. If you’re not familiar with ‘Die Hard’, you’ll be wondering why I’m referencing the festive period so much, but this is officially the number one Christmas movie according to Empire magazine.
Back in the 1980s, Bruce Willis was on a stellar trajectory as one of the stars of the successful TV series ‘Moonlighting’. He married actress Demi Moore in 1987 and together they were Hollywood’s power couple, who paved the way for “conscious uncoupling” long before the Martins grabbed that headline. Willis’ filmography is impressive; on the way there are a couple of turkeys, but big hitting films with prestigious directors like ‘Twelve Monkeys’ (Terry Gilliam) and ‘The Fifth Element’ (Luc Besson) put Bruce Willis in a league of his own for a while.
‘Die Hard’ has everything that was good and bad about the 1980s. Big, heartless corporations with greedy, grasping execs, power women in huge shoulder padded suits, heaps of cocaine and the beginnings of the techno-revolution. The story, in case you didn’t know, is about NYPD officer John McClane (Willis) who arrives in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with his estranged wife and children. Wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), is a successful senior executive at the Nakatomi Corporation. McClane is met at the airport by chauffeur Argyle in the company limousine and he is transported to Nakatomi Plaza where the company is holding a Christmas party.
Whilst McClane freshens up in his wife’s office (she has her own personal bathroom commensurate with her status, but no evidence of shoulder pads), the Nakatomi Building is invaded by baddie Hans Gruber (played brilliantly by Alan Rickman) and his team of commando and techno-savvy thugs. The only people in the building on Christmas Eve are the now dead security guards in reception, the Nakatomi Corporation party revellers and Argyle waiting in the limo in the basement just in case McClane decides to leave early.
Gruber takes control of the building and holds the employees hostage under the pretence of political motivation, with VP Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta) accused of corporate greed, but away from the other employees it becomes clear that Gruber and his gang are on a heist to steal $640 million in bonds from the company safe. What plays out is a really exciting game of cat and mouse in which Gruber and his crazy henchman search the vast building for McClane, who engages in guerrilla tactics to derail the heist.
There isn’t a dull moment in this film – truly. It’s big bangs, pyrotechnics, interesting tech-geek stuff and plenty of laugh out loud moments. Everything about ‘Die Hard’ is improbable, but somehow it just holds together with a great performance from Willis, who up until this point was known for comedy. ‘Die Hard’ catapulted him into a successful career as an action-hero in film. Rickman too, as Gruber, is 100% convincing with his sinister German accent and his band of ruthless villains.
If you’ve never watched ‘Die Hard’ then you’re in for a treat, because in spite of all its 80s-ness it’s still a really good watch that will have you on the edge of your seat, cheering John McClane on and hoping the baddies get what’s coming to them. Now doesn’t that all sound like a perfect Christmas?
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman, James Shigeta, Paul Gleason, Reginald VelJohnson