Die Hard (1987)
Dir: John McTiernan
Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson and Robert Davi
In an effort to cover several great Christmas movies this holiday season, I’m going to take a slight step backwards from Miracle on 34th Street, which is all about Santa Claus and good will towards men, and reset with Die Hard. I think we can agree that calling Die Hard a Christmas movie is a little outside the box. Some of you will argue that this isn’t a Christmas movie at all: in my opinion, this is most definitely a Christmas movie (see Note 1).
After all, the story takes place exclusively on Christmas Eve. There’s a New York cop arriving into L.A. in the first scene: right away we know that this cop, John McClane, doesn’t like to fly. Will this be the only chink in McClane’s armor? We’ll soon see… but the point is that he has his weaknesses, just like us. It seems this cop has come out to L.A. to visit with his estranged wife and their kids for the holiday. A limo has been sent to greet him, and as he rides along we get a first glimpse at the Nakatomi Tower, which is the office building that will provide the setting for the rest of the story. Right off the bat we’ve got three elements that are trustworthy ingredients for a fun movie: a hero we can relate to, a special time of year (what’s better than Dec 24?) and a unique setting in an office building that’s still under construction. So, what’s the problem?
Enter… HANS. More specifically, Hans Gruber – masterfully played by Alan Rickman with the snotty accent, elitist clothing and all – a terrorist from Germany who has decided to quit the whole terrorist gig and go the robbery route. Hans brings a bunch of mercenaries with him to take over the Nakatomi building on Christmas Eve and make a small “withdrawl” of negotiable bearer bonds from the Nakatomi vault. Put it this way, if things go right, they’ll make the roof explode (thereby making the police think all the terrorists went up with the explosion) and “be sitting on a beach, earning 20%” off the bearer bonds. Needless to say, John McClane is the “fly in the ointment” to Hans’ plans. At the end of Act I, McClane alerts his presence to Hans by putting a dead terrorist in an elevator and writing in marker on the deceased’s torso, “Now I have a machine gun… Ho Ho Ho” (can’t you just hear Hans’ voice with that line?)…
The plot is pretty good in my estimation: you’ve got the story on a clock, you’ve got the blue-collar no-bullshit cop/hero vs. the sociopath full-of-shit terrorist/villain and a setting and time that gives them a lot of fun stuff to work with. On top of a great story comes some damn good dialogue: I’m not going to spend time on this element because you probably know all the great ones anyhow! But if you choose to check this title out this December, think of the movie along the lines of the season: as Hans tells one of his fellow thieves at one point, “It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time for miracles.”