Disclaimer: Die Hard IS my all time favorite movie and possibly not coincidentally, Bruce Willis is my favorite actor. Both took over the throne years back from Kevin Bacon and Tremors, but I do not see anyone taking the throne from Bruce or this movie (it certainly helps that Die Hard is widely considered the greatest action movie of all time).
It’s a modernized version of David vs Goliath in the same vain as Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Is a different version of the classic story The Odyssey. You have an off duty New York City cop known as John McClane (played by Bruce Willis while he still had some hair) who is visiting his wife and kids for Christmas on the other coast in LA. Over the course of the movie, McClane becomes a lone wolf as German terrorists/robbers/almost kidnappers take over the fictional Nakatomi Plaza (whose actual building DOES exist in LA). The head terrorist guy is played by A la….oh, who am I kidding, you’ll know him better if I tell you it’s the guy who plays Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. Anyway, the movie as I said is a version of David vs Goliath… if Goliath had multiple heads. Bruce Willis has to take out the terrorists while trying to stay alive and if by chance he ends up saving his marriage in the process, then that’s cool too.
Yes, I am totally comparing these two movies. This is highly underrated.
My personal reason that largely makes this the best actioner of all time is that it’s the last good great action movie before CGI took over. These days you have Wolverine taking out helicopters with terribly fake explosions and fighting in front of a brutal green screen high atop Three Mile Island – and that’s just one example. But not here. As I said before, the building is real as they are driving up to it in the beginning, it is not digitally placed into LA. The explosions are all actual explosions, it may only be enough to take up half a second in a Michael Bay movie, but these are at least real and not digital or recycled.
Just be happy I couldn’t find a shot of him looking at the blades in the mirror. I’d tell you that 20th Century Fox was behind this, but wouldn’t want you to shed a tear.
Others love the movie for another just as valid reason in that the scope is narrow and is kept narrow. Bruce Willis is confined to the upper floors of a sky scraper with the terrorists he is trying to kill placed between him and the ground so it’s focused. Focus is something that has been lost in the sequels, though, as Die Hard 2 went to an airport and tried to have the baddies take off, then it was the city of New York followed by the East Coast/the entire U.S. (and there is talk of the next one expanding to another country….I still want him to go to Germany with the Snape actor’s character’s son being the bad guy, but Die Hard is too much of a cash cow (which is good and bad to me) to let the series come full circle and end.
A good movie doesn’t need to be complicated. A good movie doesn’t have to have a whole lot going on. A good movie can have very few aspects to it in fact, and all that needs to happen is that those aspects (like the two in the Toast) are not only done right, but done simply, too. If you had any doubt in your mind, or still do despite my glowing and admittedly biased review here, just thinking about this: They are all the way up to a fifth installment and the first was literally the launch pad of Bruce Willis’s career, who just played in a movie full of geriatric assassins. Also, it is technically a Christmas movie, so it totally crosses genres.
Launched his career. Figuratively and literally.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a shot: every time McClane kills a terrorist
Take a drink: for every explosion
Take a drink: if you plan on watching Die Hard 2: Die Harder after this as you will need it…because it’s the worst of the four. Just skip to three and stay happy.