I’ll be the first to argue that this isn’t actually a Christmas movie – it’s an action film that takes place at Christmas. Although, for fairness sake, when most Christmas movies are closely examined, they aren’t either – I’m looking at you Home Alone.
I rewatched Die Hard this last week because beyond all odds, hubby hadn’t seen it. And … it’s a Christmas movie that we could enjoy together that the kiddos wouldn’t be interested in – I’m totally counting this as date night.
John McClane is a New York cop who flies to Los Angeles to reconnect with his wife and kids. She moved when she got a job offer she couldn’t refuse and he didn’t follow because he loved his job in New York. The couple experienced serious relationship friction ever since.
He meets her at her swanky Christmas office work party at the Nakatomi Plaza and because this is an action movie, the whole building is seized by German radical Hans Gruber and his odd assortment of Euro-henchmen. Those in the party are promptly held hostage, but McClane slips away and starts assessing the situation as only a professional NY cop can.
Knowing he can’t beat Gruber and his team alone, McClane tries to call in the local authorities only to find the phone lines have been cut. He pulls a fire alarm, but it gets cancelled before anyone responds. He finally gets a hold of one of the radios and uses the emergency line to call in the situation only to be considered a prankster.
A single patrol car is sent out to verify that everything is okay. As the car is leaving, McClane, desperate to get the LA cop’s attention, throws one of Gruber’s team that he’d already killed in self-defense out the window at the car and then shoots at it with a machine gun.
With the authorities officially alerted and Gruber eager to get his hands on McClane, the situation turns into a game of cat and mouse. McClane is simply trying to not die as Gruber keeps increasing his efforts to find and eliminate him. It’s not really McClane’s fault that Gruber’s team keeps dying as they try to kill him.
All the while, Gruber is working his master plan, which is to get his hands on the untraceable bonds held in the building’s vault. He’s got a lock breaker who simply needs time to force the different levels of security. Everything else going on is a ruse to distract the authorities to what’s actually happening.
Does Gruber succeed? No. His end in the movie is perhaps the most spectacular and has been meme’d more than a few times. Even better, McClane also succeeds, not in saving the building, but realizing that he’d do anything to keep his wife safe and how much he really does love her (and also what a jerk he’s been in the past).
I don’t watch a lot of true action films, so returning to the genre is a nice change. Die Hard has held up remarkably well for being over 30 years old. The story is just as relevant now as it was back in 1988, if not more so, and the only parts of it that feel dated are the massive 80s hair on the women. Contrary to many contemporary action films, there is a well constructed story with good motivations pushing the different characters to do what they do. Gruber wants money, McClane wants to protect his family and the innocent bystanders in the building. Even the secondary characters are fairly well fleshed out.
There are a few strange plot choices within the story that are simply there for the story’s sake. McClane, following the advice from his seat buddy on the plane, removes his shoes to help deal with the stress and jet lag of travel. This makes it so he’s dealing with the entire hostage situation barefoot in a building with lots of broken glass, something that significantly ups the tension. The other strange plot choice is Gruber, a German national, counting on the FBI to cut the power to the building at a strategic time in order to release the last lock on the vault. It’s enough far fetched that the plan makes Gruber look either wildly brilliant, or a little crazy.
In the end, I was entertained and that’s all that matters. The main character learned how much he loved his family and he drives off into the Christmas night to the sound of Christmas music. So yeah, it’s totally a Christmas movie.
It goes without saying that this is not a kid’s movie. There’s unnecessary violence, blood splattering, plenty of language, and even a few short instances of top-only nudity. That said, older teens would probably really enjoy it for the well paced action that doesn’t push so far that it gets boring. There’s nothing that’s truly frightening or suspenseful, just action.
Honestly, I would recommend this for a fun, date night flick. There’s not a lot of complicated dialogue to follow so you can talk during the movie and not miss much.
I give Die Hard 4/5 stars for being exactly what it’s supposed to be and nothing more.
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