TBT – Die Hard (1988)

One week ago, whilst the world was only just getting used to the idea that David Bowie had died, it was announced that Alan Rickman had died at the age of 69. I was at work when I read the news and I was, once again, legitimately devastated. Despite what I may have said about his character in Love Actually, I loved Alan Rickman. He was one of Britain’s best actors and had such a superb presence whenever he was on screen. The first time I remember him was, really bizarrely, from Truly, Madly, Deeply; a film I’m sure I’ve never watched again nor do I remember why I would have seen it then. Still, until the release of The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 Alan Rickman was always the cellist from TMD to me. Of course, since his death people have been paying their respects online and mostly referencing his two most well-known performances. The first being his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series and the second his first ever film appearance. The role that cemented him as one of the greatest villains of all times in the minds of many cinema fans.

Die Hard has become the action movie against which other action films are judged. It set the precedent for every renegade cop who finds himself single-handedly bringing down the bad guy and getting the girl. John McClane became the guy all other action heroes had to prove themselves. The guy who paved the way for every wisecracking, foul-mouthed badass that came after. It’s no wonder both the film and the character are constantly being named in the top 10 movies/characters of all time lists. Die Hard is the fucking bomb.

Obviously, the many attempts to build off Die Hard‘s winning formula haven’t worked out as well as the original. The film boasts great casting in both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman and enough excitement and action to keep everyone on the edge of their seat. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it by now but it never gets any less exciting. My heart still pounds as I worry about McClane’s ability to get out of the situation he’s landed in. It’s a film experience that is as full of joy on the first watch to the last.

Still, there are parts of it that are slightly dodgy. The plot tends to get caught up in a few subplots and spends too long on terrible supporting characters. The film isn’t just all one-note and, between the chaotic explosions and gunfire, there is plenty of breathing space for the main characters to get to the fore. However, in order to have more of this downtime, there are plenty of minor characters that get more time on screen than they really deserve. The underdeveloped and tiresome limo driver, the coked-up businessman and the fucking stupid police chief are all given more screen time than they needed.

Thankfully though director John McTiernan knows what the audience wants and keeps the main plot a fairly standard affair. John McClane (Bruce Willis) has made his way from New York to LA for Christmas in the hopes of reconciling with his ex-wife. He meets her at her office party only for it to be taken over by a group calling themselves terrorists, headed up by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). John manages to keep hidden from the guys with machine guns and starts to fuck up their plans as best he can. A frantic game of cat and mouse ensues.

The intricacies of the plot are neither here nor there really. It doesn’t matter why Gruber and co have taken control of Nakatomi Plaza or what’s happening between John and his wife. All that matters is McClane finding himself having to defend innocent people from a group of ruthless thieves. It does the job. Nothing else is needed but a few blond Germans with a desire to kill and some explosives. Yes, there could have been more but there is enough of the good stuff to ensure the bad doesn’t taint it too much.

Die Hard is the film that made Bruce Willis a star and he certainly flourished in the role. John McClane is a tough guy that always knows the right thing to say. He’s sassy and brilliant. Although, what is a great hero without a great villain. This is McClane’s time to shine but Hans Gruber is the one who comes out as most memorable here. His witty asides and most quotable lines lack the sweary passion of McClane but are still just as wonderful. “Mr Takagi won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.” Fucking classic. Alan Rickman is fucking sensational here and plays the character so simply. Yes, a lot of the dialogue is fucking awful but Gruber is enough of a professional to make it work.

Alan Rickman will be remembered for this role and it is quite right too. He is a great actor that was dropped into a fucking crazy narrative. It works on so many levels and Rickman has been left with a legacy as a villain that he himself didn’t appreciate. The actor had so many facets to him but, because he was so good, he managed to create lasting characters that will never leave people. It was a truly sad day when his death was announced and watching this film every Christmas will always be fairly bittersweet now. Happy trails, Han.

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