Thursday, 25 December 2014

Die Hard (1988)

I've seen this film before, of course.  It's hard not to when you used to be flatmates with a guy who has written about ten thousand words on why Die Hard is "Perhaps the greatest action movie ever made, a masterpiece of narrative structure".

I only got a copy of the film on DVD fairly recently though, which is why this year I get to follow my ex-flatmate's annual ritual of watching the film for Xmas.

I'm not going to bother delving deep into the metaphors and symbols that underlie the film's action.  Follow the link above if you'd like to drive down that little rabbit hole.  Instead, I'm going to turn my brain off completely and just enjoy the action spectacle that Die Hard delivers.  Because it is indeed a meticulously crafted work, steadily escalating the stakes and the set pieces before its inevitably explosive finale.

Of course a solid narrative structure isn't enough by itself to make a film great.  Competent sure, but not great.  They thing that elevates this Big Dumb Action Movie above the crowd is the thing that elevates most great movies: not being dumb at all.

Because you see, while everyone - good guys and bad guys and in-betweeners alike - makes mistakes in Die Hard, the movie always gives them good reasons to do it.  Not necessarily rational reasons, but emotional reasons can be just as powerful when they're convincingly played.  Too many films act like they think that if we're willing to accept a human being surviving the explosions and bullets and who knows what else, then we're willing to accept them not acting like a human being.  Die Hard does not make that mistake.

The film's also not hurt by John McTiernan's taut direction, the charismatic performance from Bruce Willis as the film's flawed but symapthetic protagonist, or Alan Rickman's scene stealing villain.  The film's only real weakness is an unfortunate subtext about gender politics.  Alas, that's the 80s for you.

I'm not going to do a synopsis: it's 99% likely you already know the plot, and on the rare chance you don't, you deserve the chance to see it unspoiled.

Unless you're one of the rare people who simply can't abide the 'unrealistic' action set pieces (and such folks do exist), then Die Hard is absolutely worth your time.

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