Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard (1988), Directed by John McTiernan, written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp, starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman  

There's no question about it: as far as classic action movies go, Die Hard is one of those that just seem to endure time better than average. Despite it was made in the 1980s, it has surprisingly little of the overwhelming 1980s kitsch that plagues a lot of movies made during that era. I do think the 1980s, more than any other era, managed to have such an overwhelming style in pop culture, that a lot of movies made then are rendered almost unwatchable because of that, so in that sense, Die Hard is one of the lucky ones.

John McClane (Bruce Willis), is a cop from New York, flying to LA to see his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), who's working at Nakatomi corporation. It's Christmas time, so the building is pretty much empty, not including a Christmas party at Nakatomi. Just about when John is starting to relax, a group of criminal lead by Hans Gruber (brilliant late Alan Rickman). They take the people at the party hostage but miss McClane, who, like any good cop would, tries at first to do his best to contact the local police force.  From there begins a game of cat and mouse, where the criminals try to hunt McClane and he does his best to stay out of their way as well as to take out as many of them as he can.

The first surprising thing about Die Hard is, that it actually takes a while before the action begins to kick in. Before John manages to take out his first criminal, there's been violence, but there's been very little actual action. McTiernan takes his time in order to build up the characters he has at his disposal, he lays the groundwork for future scenes and plot points, creating a situation where you know that the criminals have an agenda, but you don't instantly know how they're about to tackle it. Die Hard really is somewhat old-fashioned action movie in a way, as it goes plot first into things and even John McClane isn't a psychotic killer like some action heroes are.

Die Hard is surprisingly adamant about the fact that McClane is a cop. It starts with his first takedown scene where he brawls with one of the Gruber's men. He's not trying to kill the man but incapacitates him. While the scene ends with a death of the criminal, that death happens by an accident, when the two of them stumble down a flight of stairs, during which the criminal's neck is snapped. Later on, when he encounters some of the criminals, he tries to get them to put down their weapons before shooting even starts.

While I'm not 100% sure about it, I'm sure Die Hard managed to squeeze in some things that are nowadays considered to be action movie tropes. There's a good cop, who has to take on a group of criminal alone and his only aid outside is an old beat cop, who hasn't seen action in years. The local captain of the force is suspicious of him and the FBI that gets to location are gung-ho, willing to risk the lives of the hostages. McClane himself isn't a superhero either, as by the end of the movie he's beaten up and bloodied. Even the criminals are not as straight forwarded, as while they clearly are bad men, they have an agenda that they don't share with anyone else but themselves. And I do think Die Hard might be the first portrayal of an overly chatty IT-wizard kind of a criminal.

Die Hard is a movie that is refreshingly free of the era it was made in. Sure, it has all the makings of a 1980s movie, technology included, but it doesn't drown in 1980's kitsch like some other movies do. It's also surprisingly well acted and written movie, with a good pace, snappy dialogue and well fleshed out characters.

If there's a movie that deserves to be called an action classic, Die Hard is it. So if you have a chance to see it, it's not the worst way of spending a couple of hours.