Christmas Movie #1: Die Hard

So it begins, and at this moment maybe you realize that my Christmas movies are different from most people’s Christmas movies. But are they, really? As I review the movies on my Christmas list I want you to think about how these movies reinforce love, family, and coming home for the holidays. And guns.

So yeah, Die Hard. How does one go back and review this movie? It has become such a quintessential action movie, ushering in an easy way to summarize action movies for years (“it’s like Die hard, but on/in a…”) and giving us one of the most memorable action heroes of all time. I suppose I will simply summarize, list what I love, and then close with a score. Spoiler, it’s going to be a five.

Die Hard begins with New York cop John McClane on a plane to L.A. to visit his wife a kids for the holidays. We begin to notice that his marriage is like I like my Scotch: on the rocks. He goes to pick her up at her job in the super impressive Nakatomi Plaza and as fate would have it a group of terrorists show up and take everyone hostage. McClane avoids capture and begins a one man war to save the hostages while maintaining his sanity by communicating with patrolman Al Powell outside via Walkie.

I love this movie, it has it all. John McClane is the perfect everyman hero played with gusto by Bruce Willis, he doesn’t want to risk his life but he’s the only one who can get the job done. He gets dirty, and hurt, and loses his shoes, but he does not stop, and he always remains flippant. Opposite of his is Alan Rickman as the terrorist leader Hans Gruber, he is a cold and evil man, yet so very charming. He may not be the most powerful, or awe inspiring, but he clearly earns his spot on the list of top movie villains.

Special notice must be given to Reginald Val Johnson as Al Powell; he is our emotional anchor in the film. Like our hero he is a likable cop, caught up in a mess way over his head, but unlike our hero he is in no position to do anything about it. But he keeps McClain going; he is the faithful sidekick whose hope and optimism keeps the hero going. If you don’t cheer at the end of this movie when these two men actually see each other you have no soul.

Beyond these three are a host of great side characters. Ellis the slimy corporate man, Nakatomi himself as a confident businessman, McClane’s wife Holly, Argyle the limo driver, even the two FBI agents; all of them great no matter how simple they may sound. Theo is probably my favorite, a wiseass hacker who is the reason I tend to scream “The quarter back is toast!” when I fire rockets are things. Man, the quotes, don’t even get me started. This is one of the most quotable movies around and for good reason. The dialogue is sharp and well crafted, due in no small part to the film’s literary background as a novel.

Die Hard is a sharply written action movie that has heart. It’s witty, it’s fast, and it has fun. It features powerful action and matching music and stands as one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, I watch it every year and I’m happy every time. Die Hard gets a 5/5.


2 thoughts on “Christmas Movie #1: Die Hard

  1. I have to ask if Die Hard 2 is going to make your Christmas list here. I think it didn’t even start as a Die Hard movie, but was later retooled to fit.

    But yeah, I only saw this movie well after Die Hard 3 but even today it still holds up very, very well. Brucey old boy really knocked us all dead with his new wisecracking hero and cavalier attitude towards even his own mortality, and he really did sell it.

    Good choice!

  2. You are correct. Die Hard was based on a novel that was a sequel to another novel, though the movie changed some characters (main character was made younger, his daughter was made to be his wife) it is reported to be very faithful to the book.
    Die hard 2 was a completely seperate book called “58 minutes”.
    Die hard 3 was made from an unconnected script called “Simon says”
    Die hard 4 was based on an article in wired magazine.

    I probably won’t cover die hard 2 for my christmas list. It’s a guilty pleasure but I don’t like it as much as the others. Still, it’s a good christmas movie, but it doesn’t have the ehart of the original.

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