I watched this film recently on the big screen at my local cinema, The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford. I hadn’t seen the film before and seeing it at the cinema for the first time was a really exciting experience. I have heard a lot about it and the subsequent sequels from other popular culture such as FRIENDS and Brooklyn 99. I thought that the film was really good and definitely lived up to the hype it has gathered in the last 30 years. I went in thinking that the film was about an LA cop taking down some bad guys and saving some hostages but the actual film is so much better.
The basic premise is that John McClane, a cop in the NYPD goes to Los Angeles to visit his wife. She moved there with their young children for her career and McClane wanted to stay in New York to finish catching criminals. After 6 months apart, McClane goes to her office Christmas party to surprise her. He discovers that she goes by her maiden name and he makes friends with his limo driver, Argyle. After a tense reunion in the bathroom where McClane has taken off his shirt and shoes, his wife Holly rejoins the party.
Then all hell breaks loose as German terrorists storm the building and take everyone hostage. McClane was not spotted and managed to escape the 30th floor. The phone lines have been cut and exits are covered so all he can do is try to rescue the hostages. He is barefoot, in a vest (tank top) and has only his gun to fend them off. The Nakatomi Plaza is the setting for the film and as the building is not yet finished, there are plenty of materials to use and spaces to hide out in.
It takes a long time for McClane to actually get the authorities’ attention but once he does, the police and FBI descend and try to work out how to rescue everyone. The film is filled with daredevil stunts, explosions, family connections and Alan Rickman as a German terrorist.
I really enjoyed the film including all the little twists such as Holly placing a photo of her and John face down so that later the terrorists don’t realise the connection and the fact that she is known by her maiden name. In fact they do not figure out McClane’s identity until the reporter for the local news put their kids on TV to say goodbye to their parents. I wouldn’t say it was particularly Christmassy but as it is set around Christmas, it has turned into a classic for the festive season.
This film was definitely a patriotic, root for the American Hero type of film with people of a different nationality as the enemy but despite this there was a lot of diversity for the 1980s. There were good and bad white people, good and bad Asian people and and good and bad black people. A real balance that I did not expect from this film.
I thought the acting was excellent. I did not recognise Alan Rickman at all as I mostly know him from his later work in Harry Potter and Love Actually. I was surprised to see Bruce Willis with hair as I also know him from later work such as Red, The Whole Nine Yards and Moonrise Kingdom. I thought he was a great action hero and I am now interested to see how he does in the other Die Hard films.
Overall I give this film 4.5/5. I would watch it again but definitely not one for young people as it is rated 18 due to the violence.