A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
A hero was lurking
Just a few floors above
In an occupied building
With Gruber cowering
Becoming a pucker
McClane declares war
“Yippee ki-yay, Mother f***er!”
“Die Hard”, the genesis of the franchise and for many, the best of the bunch, is a very important film for not just an era, but an entire genre.
A definitive action thriller, “Die Hard” is one of those classics that is regarded as a “must-see” for film lovers. I had not seen this film in it’s entirety before this, and I must say that 26 years on, this is far better than 80% of the garbage we’re being served up today.
NYPD officer John McClane is a victim of circumstance as he finds himself caught in a high pressure hostage situation in the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Unaware of his presence, German terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his henchmen seem to be fulfilling their plans without fault, that is until McClane declares a one-man war against the thieves, resulting in a claustrophobic, cataclysm of chaos that has audiences on the edge of their seats.
What makes “Die Hard” so pioneering and successful are a number of things.
Firstly, the protagonist. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is the down-to-earth relatable hero that is reluctant, rude and highly likeable. Vulnerable but witty, McClane is a very well realised action hero who has set precedence as far as similar roles are concerned. What I enjoyed most about McClane was the dialogue, the action sequences and the accessibility around him.
Unlike Schwarzenegger and Stallone, Willis’ McClane is not the archetypal heroic figure that is invincible and untouchable. He gets his butt handed to him regularly and often finds himself panicking with frequent looks of nervousness and even fear.
On the other hand, he also greets his foes with anger, confidence and wise-cracking comebacks.
The fight sequences are anything but flashy and routined; they’re gritty, raw and all over the place. This adds so much to the mood of the film but also the character of McClane himself. He’s not one for stylistic combat – he just gets the job done, as ugly as it becomes in some instances.
Sure, the endless slew of sequels have driven McClane into the ground, but it doesn’t mean that his initial efforts cannot be celebrated for what they were. This was the film and the hero that changed action for many audiences and filmmakers. Where has that spark gone?
A great hero is not only defined by his characteristics, he is also, and in some ways, more importantly, defined by his enemies.
In the case of McClane, his foe is the aforementioned Hans Gruber, a near-perfect antagonist, played exceptionally by Alan Rickman. What is so brilliant about Gruber is the structure of his carter and the relationship he shares with McClane.
What is so magnificent about the hero/villain rivalry is that for neither of the two know what the other looks like. Their back and forth communication takes place over a pair of radios, and the way that writing, editing and overall narrative structure play so well together is something rather extraordinary.
The audience are able to see both sides of the scenario, however for Gruber and McClane, a cloak of mystery covers their judgment throughout the story.
This makes for some gripping scenes later in the film!
Above all, “Die Hard” makes it’s presence known as a non-stop action classic that kicks ass and takes names. With solid character exploration, brutal action and an unapologetic vibe about it, John McTiernan’s finest is one for the ages.
With a relatable, likeable hero leading the show, “Die Hard” stands above the rest of it’s kind as a definite, must-see classic action thriller!