Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason
Released: July 20, 1988
Best Sound (lost to Bird)
Best Editing (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Best Sound Effects (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Best Visual Effects (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Just so you know, you're suppose to say the title of this entry in Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber voice.
By all accounts, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, hence why I'm reviewing it this month, but I don't associate it with Christmas. Yes, it takes place on Christmas Eve. Yes, it takes place at an office Christmas party. (But once the terrorists appear, you kind of forget about that!) Yes, there are Christmas songs. ("Christmas in Hollis" comes to mind). You see a large Christmas tree in the lobby of the building. And of course there's the dead terrorist wearing a Santa hat with the message "Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho." written on his shirt. However, it was released in July. But that makes sense since it IS an action movie and most action movies come out in the summer. I always find it so weird when movies set entirely around the holidays come out in a month that isn't November or December. The original Miracle on 34th Street came out in May and I had totally forgotten While You Were Sleeping was a Christmas movie because that one came out in April! People, if you're going to make a Christmas movie, make sure it comes out in November or December! But it's easy to forget Die Hard is a "Christmas" movie because it's not saturated in Christmas-y goodness like, say, Elf or Home Alone or Christmas Vacation are. (Just to name a few of my holiday favorites!) This is also only the second time I've seen this movie in its entirety (I know, I know, hard to believe I've seen such a classic only twice in my life!), so it's easy to forget it's a "Christmas" movie. I will say that this feels like more of a Christmas movie than Lethal Weapon.
I had no idea Die Hard was based on a book, but as I was watching the credits, on the screen it said, "Based on the novel by Roderick Thorp." A quick trip to Wikipedia told me the book was called Nothing Lasts Forever and was published in 1979. It seems weird that such a visual story was a book first. This movie has been out for nearly 30 years and this is the first time I'm finding out about this! (Obviously I must have not been watching the screen when that text appeared the first time I watched this!) And get this: that book was a SEQUEL to another book Thorp wrote in 1966 called The Detective and that was made into a movie in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra. And they offered Sinatra the part of John McClane!! And he was SEVENTY THREE YEARS OLD at the time!! What the what?? He turned it down, obviously. He probably read the script and was like, "They want me to jump through a building with a hose tied around me? F that!" Now in the books the character's name is Joe Leland and he's a retired police officer indicating he's an older man (like Mr. Sinatra in 1988) and it's not his wife's office Christmas party, but his daughter's. So it sounds like they changed things around a bit when they got a much younger star. (Bruce Willis was 32). Technically this was the movie that made him a star, or at least an action star, as he was really only known for Moonlighting during this time.
The movie begins with our hero, NYPD cop John McClane (Willis) flying into Los Angeles to see his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia...yes, the matriarch on Parenthood!) We get a back story that they are separated because she got a great job in L.A. and moved out there with their two kids while John stayed in New York. He is trying to reconcile with her and what better time than Christmas Eve? He goes to her office building, the Nakatomi Plaza Tower, where an office Christmas party is being held. While McClane changes his clothes in the bathroom, twelve terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) enter the building and shoot the security guard and the guy manning the front desk. But before they come into play, we meet some of our supporting characters including McClane's wife, Holly. He is not happy to find out that she's been using her maiden name, Generro. We also meet her boss and the man who runs the corporation, Mr. Takagi and one of her sleazy co-workers, Ellis, who wants to sleep with her. There's also McClane's limo driver, Argyle, who drove him to the building and is waiting for him but he doesn't hear anything going on for the better part of the movie because he has the music playing loudly.
Gruber and his men have cut the power from the elevators, computers, and telephone lines. When they crash the party, McClane runs towards the top of the building. Gruber wants to talk to Takagi. He wants the code to the safe so he can get the 640 million dollars in bonds that are in there. He takes Takagi into his office to talk to him and tells him if he doesn't give him the code in three seconds, he'll shoot him and he does when he doesn't get the code from the executive. This is when we, the viewer, know Hans Gruber means business and isn't playing around. While vicious, he is also kind of funny. He tells the others, "I wanted this to be professional, efficient, and cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Unfortunately Mr. Takagi didn't see it that way so he won't be joining us for the rest of his life." The way he says it is just so casual.
McClane pulls the fire alarm, which is actually smart. It's a good way to alert the police with no phone lines. However, Hans tells one of his henchmen to call 9-1-1 and to give them the guard's name and the building code number and have the alarm cancelled. McClane can see the police cars and fire trucks coming down the street, but they turn around. Um, I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to do that. Don't they have to check on why the fire alarm was pulled, in case, you know, there are TERRORISTS? True, this was nearly thirty years ago so maybe things have changed since that. I bet this movie changed that! It's probably called the Die Hard code.
McClane kills one of the terrorists after they figure out what floor the fire alarm was pulled and Gruber tells German Blond Terrorist #1 (like I remember their names!) to investigate it. After McClane kills him, he writes the "Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho." message on his shirt that Rickman so hilariously reads. His reading of "Ho. Ho. Ho." is just the best thing ever. It's defintely in my top ten most memorable Christmas movie moments. He also takes the terrorist's radio and is on top of the elevator when Gruber and his other henchmen are talking so he finds out some of their names, including Hans's.
McClane heads to the top of the roof where he can get a connection with the radio to get in contact with the police and we get a completely ridiculous scene where an officer tells him that the channel he's using is reserved for emergencies only right after he's told them that terrorists have taken over the building. Um, what exactly counts as an emergency then if not that? McClane has my exact same thought and yells, "No f***ing s**t, lady! Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza?" Haha. The woman tells him, "If this is emergency, call 9-1-1." Did she not hear that there are terrorists and they most likely cut the phone lines? I know this is a movie, but my God! If something like this happened in real life, that woman would be raked over the coals for her insensitivity to someone calling for help! Sheesh! After she hears gunfire (!!), she still doesn't seem too concerned, but wants a police officer to drive by and check out things just in case. The terrorists, with their own radios, can also hear the conversation so they know there might be police checking on things soon.
Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson aka Carl Winslow from Family Matters) is the one to get the call to check the place out. One of the twelve terrorists (well, eleven now since McClane killed one....actually less now since he killed a couple more during this time) is posing as the concierge at the front desk. He tells Powell everything is fine and we get a close call where it looks like Powell is going to go past a dark hallway where a gunman is waiting for him, but decides everything is fine and turns back and leaves. McClane sees him leaving and to get his attention, he pushes a body of one of the terrorists he has just killed out the window and it lands on the hood of his car. ("Did I do that?") I think that got his attention! He calls for backup. The terrorists can hear the sirens approaching, but Hans tells them not to worry, that they will take care of this. McClane communicates with him on the radio and this is our first interaction between our hero and villain. When Gruber asks him who he is, McClane replies with, "Just the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass." Gruber knows he has to get to McClane because they soon find out that he took the bag with the detonator, that they will need to help open the vault, that one of the terrorists he killed had with him.
The police arrive as well as a news crew. McClane talks to Powell on the radio, telling him the situation. He knows the bad guys are listening so he can't give away too much information like his name or whereabouts. I'm guessing the reason he doesn't want to give his name is that he doesn't want Gruber to figure out his wife is in the office, but if she's going by another name, would he figure it out? While Powell trusts McClane, the Deputy Chief of Police (Paul Gleason) does not and thinks McClane is probably a terrorist too and they shouldn't take him for his word. Which makes sense. Better safe to be sorry. Powell, using his copdar, has a good hunch that McClane is a cop.
Seeing as they are only shot at when they try to enter the building, the cops aren't having any luck. Remember the sleazy character I told you about earlier? Ellis? Well, he decides it's time to take matters into his own hands and he'll talk to Hans. He thinks he'll be able to handle him since he "negotiates million dollar deals for breakfast". This guy is such an arrogant sleaze and you just know he's going to get it...and you don't feel bad for him when he inevitably does! Does it make me a bad person if I was kind of rooting for it? He tells Hans he has something he can give him and proceeds to give him McClane's name and acts like they've known each other a long time even though they just met that night for the first time. Gruber radios McClane to tell him he knows who he is and he has someone special who wants to talk to him and you can see the fear cross over McClane's face, thinking they found out Holly is his wife and they have her. Because who else would it be that he knows? Stupidly, Ellis tells John, "They want the detonators or they're going to kill me" and grins at Gruber and gives him the thumbs up sign. His stupid little theatrics just got him killed! Although I'm sure Gruber would have killed him anyway, regardless. You could tell Ellis was really grating on his nerves! It's only the last seconds of his life when Ellis realizes he made a horrible and stupid mistake.
Gruber runs into McClane who points a gun at him while checking on something. He puts on an American accent and pretends to be one of the civilians from the party who had escaped, but I was waiting for McClane to see through his BS because Alan Rickman, no matter what accent he's speaking in, has such a distinct voice, but no, it never came! In fact, it's Gruber who points his gun at McClane when he turns his back. But being that he's John McClane, he manages to escape.
Gruber finds out Holly is John's wife when a news reporter goes to her house and interviews her kids and he sees them in a photo with their parents. We get that ridiculous, but super cool scene of McClane on the roof wrapping a hose around his waist and jumping off the building and crashing into a window. He finds Hans with a gun pointed at Holly's head, but shoots him and he falls back into a window and shatters it (aren't office building windows supposed to be strong enough that they won't break?) He's dragging Holly with him and grabs her watch, because surprise, surprise, Hans isn't dead yet and he reaches for his gun....but doesn't have time to shoot McClane because the watch has been disconnected and he falls to his death. I laughed when Powell and his boss are looking at the body falling out the window and the police chief says, "Oh, I hope that's not a hostage."
McClane is hailed a hero and he gets to meet Sergeant Powell who has one final heroic moment when he kills a remaining terrorists who comes out and aims his gun at John and Holly. When Holly is introduced to Powell she tells him her name is Holly McClane. The movie ends with "Let it Snow" to remind us that we were watching a "Christmas" movie. Uh-huh. I love Die Hard, but it doesn't really put me in the Christmas spirit! I have also seen the other Die Hard movies once each and enjoyed them, although I don't even remember anything about any of them. I do remember NOT enjoying Die Hard 5 and turning it off halfway through because I could care less.
My following Christmas movie reviews will be much more Christmas-y!