Viewed – 05 September 2009 Blu-ray
This was easily one of the finest action movies of the eighties, a decade that spawned quite a few gems in the genre, including The Terminator, Predator and Lethal Weapon. This also inspired a slew of copycat movies where everything was nick-named Die Hard on a … such as Under Siege, Cliffhanger, Executive Decision. So it was fun to revisit the film that mostly started it all, and with the casting of Bruce Willis, former TV actor, and not the muscle-bound caricature embodied by the likes of Stallone and Arnie, it felt fresh at the same time.
Bruce plays New York cop John McClane, a likable, street smart eighties character on a par with Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley. He’s visiting his estranged wife on Christmas Eve during a party at the Nokatomi Plaza, an immense sky scraper slap bang in the centre of LA. Yet whilst he’s there a group of terrorists seize control of the building, and it’s up to John McClane to save the day. Watching it now, it feels very cliched but no less fun and still has some stunning moments and nail biting tension, with the charisma of Bruce totally pulling you in. Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber remains one of the finest screen villains ever, and is every bit Bruce’s equal. The action is exciting, you route for John McClane as he tries to survive confrontation after confrontation, and the buddy relationship he builds with street cop Al is as enjoyable as I remember it being. Even the moments of comedy seem well placed, and it still is shot with a style and confidence that helps the film to not have aged too badly. Looking at this with the memory of the most recent Die Hard, it is still superior and more subtle, with little of that film’s jumps of logic and plausibility. What helped this work so well is that not once does the film feel like it couldn’t happen.
The Blu-ray is, for a film that is over twenty years old, nothing to write home about, with a rather soft picture that does seem to improve when you take into consideration Jan De Bont’s impeccable camera work. The sound is punchy and generally pleasing, and as far as extras go we get a very informative commentary from the director and the production developer, some spoof news footage, and well, that’s it. Sad really when you conisder the otherwise hefty extras package available on the Special Edition DVD. Overall, this film deserves better.
Verdict: 4 /5