Die Hard (1988) (R)

Undoubtably one of the best known action movies, "Die Hard" employs the idea of being shut in, trapped with the bad guys. It's sheer mayhem, pure bad luck, and determination carried out in such colorful ways.
Perhaps not a brilliant work of character development or philosophical themes, "Die Hard" remains exactly what it intended to be—a ridiculously entertaining movie that stands as the quintessential 'one-man-versus-an-army' film.
John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York cop, is traveling out to California to be with his family for Christmas. He's not looking forward to the awkward conversations that he will assuredly have with his separated wife. Once he's landed, with a giant teddy bear in tow, he finds a limousine service waiting for him.
He gets driven to his wife's work, Nakatomi Plaza. This is a huge building, containing bright minds and eccentric characters. It's Christmas Eve and the company is throwing a party. John's wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) is the second in command of the offices. She keeps getting hit on by adolescent coke-heads, cleverly disguised in suits.
John shows up and quickly avoids the main screaming center of the party. He seems to be a more reserved person.
Then, naturally, things start to go wrong.
In the case of this movie, it's a group of possible terrorists storming into the building and locking everyone in. Now, trapped in with a ruthless killer named Hans (Alan Rickman), John has to find a way to stop the bad guy and save everyone from an explosive death.
The script for "Die Hard" is impeccable and seamlessly introduces new characters without leaving the viewer bewildered with all the people they have to keep up with. In that regard, this movie is very similar to Spielberg's style...seen best in "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park". Pop references are made, John is shocked at the difference between New York and California, and he's forced to become more mature about the way he looks at his and Holly's strained relationship.
It's been said that a hero is only as good as the villain...meaning, we like to see a worthy adversary—in all honesty, we know that the good guy will win in the end. "Die Hard" has a great villain. Alan Rickman is cool, calculated, and just the right amount of crazy to pull this one off.
Yet the movie and every shot of the film belongs to Bruce Willis who proves that he can carry an action film better that perhaps anyone else. He's cocky, moral, and a wicked shot.
The film does play out like being in the wrong place at the wrong time—for that fact, it's extremely easy to sympathize with John. The film isn't afraid to take a few moments in between the action for breaths. It doesn't have to have constant gun shots and bombs. John can sit still for minutes and try to figure out a plan. Yet make no mistake in thinking that the film looses its sense of timing...no, definitely not. There is a deep sense of dread that fills the night air...we know the villains will want to finish their mischievous doings by the time the sun has come up.
Possibly the best thing "Die Hard" manages to do is be thrilling. Something about running around, not aware of what's down the next corridor, in a 40 story building at night connects with the viewer. I don't know how they manage to do it...but they do, and that's really all that matters.
It's interesting to note that "Die Hard" was better received across seas that it was domestically. It only got four Oscar nominations and they were the 'minor' awards like sound editing and the like. It won none. Yet it won several best foreign film awards in other countries...it's not crucial to understanding the movie, it's just interesting.
"Die Hard" is a success because of the directing, the script, and a star performance from Bruce Willis.
Oh, and the movie's a blast as well.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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