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December 11, 2011

Die Hard - Review

Around this time of year, people start asking each other what their favorite Christmas movie is. I always get a funny look when I answer Die Hard. And I can't blame them. Die Hard has no Santa, no elves, no snowmen, no awkward family meals, and no underlying moral lesson about family and the spirit of the the holiday. There aren't any gifts exchanged, but instead bullets and awesome one-liners. And there lies the reason that I love it so much.

For the uninitiated, John McClane is the hero of this action-packed thriller. McClane is a New York City cop who flies out to Los Angeles to be with his estranged wife and children for Christmas. While waiting for his wife to finish at a her office's Christmas party, a few uninvited guest toting machine guns crash the party, led by one Hans Gruber. They lock down the building and hold the guests hostage while attempting to break into the building's vault and steal the millions of dollars lying within. But they didn't count on John McClane giving them a, aherm, run for their money.

What follows after this main setup is a tightly written, intense, and fun action film, and one of the best action films to ever be produced. Each action sequence is effortlessly exciting and enthralling, mostly due to director John McTiernan's exceptional eye for action. This film was made before the days of shaky-cam, and it's all the better for it. McTiernan films the action scenes smoothly and breathlessly, giving the audience a clear view of all the stunts.

Hopefully you'll never get to know what a
TV dinner feels like.
We've often grown accustomed of late to action movies with cool stunts, but awful scripts. Die Hard is not one of them. The dialogue, particularly John McClane's, are humorous and often witty, adding an awesome one-two punch to many shootouts in the film. Neither did the writers skip on plot. The plot is quite intelligently thought-out, particularly in the way the terrorists handle the law enforcement and how we see them do exactly what is expected. It turns the idea of the smart cops battling against a bunch of dumb, faceless thugs on its head, and instead does the reverse.

Make no mistake, our villains are no simple thugs. Hans Gruber oozes intelligence and is quite the charming villain, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman. Rickman practically steals the show, leaving the viewer unable to take their eyes from his performance. Beyond Hans, each individual terrorist seems to have their own personality rather than being faceless fodder for McClane's bullets.

But the reason the film succeeds is because of its incredibly likable lead character. McClane is Bruce Willis' defining role, and he plays it with such enthusiasm. McClane is the kind of guy to taunt a bad guy even while staring down the barrel of a gun. He's witty, smart, and perhaps the coolest action hero of the 80s.

Kids, this is what happens to people
who make the naughty list.
Only technically a Christmas movie, Die Hard remains my favorite of a series that includes such films as It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Miracle on 34th Street. It's a testosterone fueled thrill ride that's as much fun as it is purely awesome. The industry is short on such unabashedly great action films lately. Iconic villains and all, it doesn't get much better than this. So this holiday, join the party, come out to the coast, get together, and have a few laughs. Die Hard is the cure for the overly-sappy, sentimental holiday schlock.

5/5 stars


  1. my favorite christmas film also, terrific review Chad.

  2. Lol. I've been wanting to check this out again for quite sometime. Not sure why. Good review.