Die Hard – Yes, It’s A Christmas Movie.

Hello everyone. Welcome to another #moviemonday. Today is an exciting Movie Monday because it is the first of my festive themed Movie Monday’s. Starting today, I will be discussing Christmas movies for the rest of the month because I love this time of year and there are so many great movies to choose from. 

If you saw my Instagram stories, then you will know that I went to see a movie over the weekend and I ran a poll to see if anyone could guess what it was. Thank you so much to anyone who sent in their guess, I really appreciate it. Some of you got it right and some of you guessed movies that I will be discussing later in the month. 

On Saturday I went to see Die Hard in the Light House cinema and it was a brilliant night. 

Today I am talking all about Die Hard so let’s dive into #moviemonday. 

Die Hard was directed by John McTiernan and the movie was released in 1988. 

Plot.

This movie follows NYPD police officer John McClane as he goes to L.A to visit his estranged wife at her office Christmas party. John is hoping to patch things up with Holly, who is doing brilliantly at her new job in her big office at Nakatomi Plaza. She even has started going by her maiden name. John doesn’t think the party can get any worse but then it does when everyone on the 30th floor gets held hostage by the impeccably calculated Hans Gruber and his men. John must singlehandedly fight each one of Hans’ men while trying to figure out what it is that they want, and while making sure that nothing happens to Holly or any of the other hostages. The LAPD can’t help him, the FBI can’t help him. It’s just John McClane up in that skyscraper and he has to trust his instincts and follow his gut if he wants to make it out alive. 

I will say that I love this movie. I would even go as far as saying that it is possibly my favourite movie. I have loved it since I was quite young because in my house it is a family favourite. I would watch this movie at any time of the year but it is a Christmas movie. It simply is not Christmas for me if I don’t watch Die Hard in December. Is it as festive as some other Christmas movies? Maybe not, but it is set at Christmas which makes it a Christmas movie. 

I also think that it is one of the best action movies there is. I studied film theory as part of my BA and I have written an essay all about Die Hard so that will tell you how much I love this movie. I think this movie set the tone for what action movies came to be. I think that this movie really set up the idea of one unlikely hero who has to defeat the bad guys all by themselves as many movies are described as being something like  “Die Hard on a train/boat/etc.”, and I think that highlights the success of this movie. Die Hard captured something really special with the character of John McClane and while many films try to replicate it, I don’t think it has ever been equaled. 

Characters. 

The movie’s protagonist is John McClane, and I have to spend some time talking about him because I think he is a brilliant character and I don’t think anyone could have played him other than Bruce Wilis. When this movie came out, John McClane was not the typical action movie hero. Action movie heroes looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. John McClane is not made of  bulging muscles and he is not an ultra strong, hypermasculine hero. He is a normal NYPD officer. He is fit, but he does not look like a superhero. He is masculine, but in a very different way to someone like Schwarzenegger. John McClane is a wise-cracking, sarcastic, begrudging hero. He does not want to deal with this, this was not how he envisioned his night going. He gets thrust into this situation, and I think the factor that makes Die Hard so brilliant is that it is clear that John McClane has been thrown into this situation and now he must deal with it in order to survive. He is acting on instinct alone, he is trying to think on his feet, quite literally as he got caught without his shoes or socks on, he is at times visibly frustrated because he has to figure out his next move on the spot and his brilliance comes from being good under pressure. His quick wit and slick nature is what buys him time and keeps him safe. He gets called a cowboy by Hans and I think that this is very apt. I like that John McClane is human. He is flawed. He has made mistakes in his marriage, he is stubborn, he is not the best at following protocol, he is a real person and this makes him relatable, but at the end of the day, he does love his wife and he does love his children and he is a good man. 

Hans Gruber is the movie’s antagonist. He is played by the amazing Alan Rickman. Apologies to any Harry Potter fans who think of Snape when they hear the name Alan Rickman, to me, he will always be Hans Gruber. Hans is the character that I think of when I hear Rickman’s name. He is an incredible villain. He is the antithesis of John McClane. The two characters could not be any more different. Hans is articulate, he is immaculately dressed, he is calm and poised, he is calculated. His every move has been carefully planned out and if it was not for John McClane being in the building that night, I think it is very likely that his plan would have worked. He is the villain, and he is ruthless at times, but something that I like about Hans is that he is not violent for the sake of being violent, and he does not fumble easily. He is an extremely clever man and I love that he stays extremely calm for the majority of the movie. He does not need to shout to be scary. He is intimidating even when he is standing still, and he does have a sense of humour and I appreciate that even though he is the villain, he is a nuanced character. He is not one dimensional. 

The thing to remember about this movie is that while it is an action movie, it is also a heist movie because that is Hans’ long-term plan. He wants to steal the millions that are in the vault, but he knows that he would be caught so his entire plan is to make the entire operation look like a terrorist attack so that when the building blows, the police will think he is dead because you don’t look for someone if you think they are already dead. His plan indicates what a detailed, calculating person he is, and again it shows how different he is to John McClane because there is a smoke and mirrors aspect to Hans’ but with John McClane, what you see is what you get. 

Holly Genero (McClane) is John’s estranged wife. She is doing incredibly well for herself in L.A. She has got a brilliant job that she is very good at. She has got a lovely office. She is respected by her coworkers, even the arrogant male coworkers, and her boss respects her so much that he asks her to give a speech at the Christmas party. Holly’s job causes a strain in her and John’s marriage. He does not want to leave New York, and in his own words, he should have been more supportive. I love Holly. She is clever, she is independent, she is taking advantage of an opportunity that has come her way. I think that modern viewers may say that she does not play a huge role in this movie, and I think Holly is the kind of character that would be heavily altered if the movie was to ever get remade – this is a movie that I hope never gets remade because it is perfect as it is. It does not need to be touched, I don’t think any remake could ever do it justice, and I also think that Holly’s character was very empowering especially when you remember that this movie came out in 1988. Holly is not a helpless damsel. John is on her turf when he comes to her workplace. He is an outsider. He is out of place in her corporate world. She holds the power there. She stays calm in a hostage situation. She remains professional and composed throughout the entire ordeal, and she even negotiates with Hans. She is steely when she requests a sofa for her pregnant assistant and she is not begging Hans to allow the hostages to use the bathroom, she is telling him quite firmly that unless he likes things messy then he better start bringing them in groups. Holly holds her own and I love her for it. I think her best moment is when she punches the reporter who harassed her children in order to get his story. Holly may be John’s romantic interest, and yes he does save her at one point, but she is not helpless, she is not simply there to be saved, she is a strong, interesting character in her own right and I think that she should get more credit for how great she is. 

There is an ensemble of characters in this movie and they are all fantastic. Hans has his team of cronies and each of them have their own special skill. Al Powell is the sergeant on the outside who communicates with John through a radio. He is the one police officer who believes John and he is on his side throughout the movie. Argyle is John’s driver who picked him up at the airport and he is fantastic. I would argue that he is the comic relief in this action movie as throughout the entire hostage ordeal, Argyle is in the parking garage enjoying his drinks and dancing to music in his seat, completely oblivious to everything that is going on inside the skyscraper and while I won’t spoil anything, he too has a brilliant moment towards the end of the movie. I even love Harry Ellis, the oaf who works with Holly. He is full of himself and he thinks he is way more brilliant than he actually is. He is arrogant, but he somehow manages to be really funny. You cannot help but laugh at his antics. There is the Chief of Police and the FBI agents and the news team and all of them want their moment in the sun which is why they do not listen to John. It gets very frustrating but it does make the ending extremely satisfying. No spoilers though, if you want to know what I’m talking about then you have to watch the movie. 

Themes. 

Die Hard may be an action movie, but that does not mean that it does not have some really compelling themes. There is heart to this movie which only adds to why I love it. Family is a key theme. John is going to L.A in order to see what happens with Holly. We get the idea that he wants to patch things up but we don’t know how that will play out. Despite their differences, Holly and John clearly love each other. John  loves his children, as does Holly and one of the key plot points in this movie is that Hans does not know that Holly is John’s wife for a long time and this allows John to work things out because if Hans knew who Holly was from the start, he’d have hurt her to get John to give up. Holly is John’s weakness, and the fact that Hans finds this out towards the end of the movie is great because it heightens the stakes towards the movie’s climax. I think that planning vs instinct is a major theme in this movie. Hans is the personification of planning. He is immaculate and calculated and in all honesty, his plan probably should have worked and it likely would have if John did not happen to be there because as I said earlier, John was thrown into this and he is figuring out his next step as he goes along. He is the personification of pure instinct. Hans was not able to handle someone like John because he could not plan for someone like John McClane. John McClane is unpredictable and spontaneous, and he gives the calculated Hans a run for his money. I think that I would list society vs individualism as a theme, it is a minor one, but it is there. John is all by himself, he is the lone hero, and he has to set protocol aside which the LAPD officers do not like and Al is another individual because he is the only one on the ground who is rooting for John. He believes in him. He goes against his boss because he believes that the voice he is hearing over the radio is telling the truth and he stands with him. Greed is another theme. Hans Gruber wants millions, and he has constructed this entire plan in order to achieve that goal. It shows what some people are willing to do for money and image is obviously very important to Hans as he is well groomed and he is dressed in a suit and mentions owning many more so he is clearly a man who is driven by money and image. 

I have spoken about the hero’s journey a few times before but I think that John Mcclane is more of an anti-hero, or at least he is an unlikely hero. He is not the archetypal hero. He is not the underdog. He is jaded, he swears, he is not clean cut, and yet there is something charming about him. You cannot help but root for him. I would call him an iconic character. 

Stucture. 

Die Hard is a long movie and I think that it is a perfectly structured movie. It is a movie that is, in my opinion, an example of brilliant exposition. Everything in Die Hard happens for a reason. It is not absurd. Everything is set up. An example of this is the fact that John McClane is barefoot during the hostage situation. The movie opens with him on a flight, gripping the armrest tightly. This shows us that he does not like flying and the passenger beside him comments on this too. The man tells him the way to get over travel sickness is to take off your shoes and socks when you get to your hotel, walk around barefoot and “make fists with your toes”, so when John is in Holly’s office, this is exactly what he does. He takes off his shoes and socks and makes fists with his toes and is pleasantly surprised when it actually works. It is at this moment that the gunshots go off, and John scrambles to get his own gun. He does not have time to put his shoes and socks back on, and he knows this is not ideal or practical so when he does kill one of Hans’ men, he attempts to put the man’s boots on but they don’t fit which is why he has to remain barefoot. I think this is just one example of the brilliant storytelling that is done in Die Hard. There are lots of little moments like this that lead to things making sense later. The security guard tells John that there are floors under construction when he enters the building, which is how he knows to hide on one of those floors later so he can have time to think out his next move, he did not just magically find empty floors, there are always little snippets of details being given to us that end up being important later on, and I think it is brilliant because it means that everything comes full circle. I love the shots used in this movie. There are many tracking shots where the camera follows wires or cables and there are a lot of cutaway shots which heighten the action sequences. There is a great moment where John and Hans meet but John does not know who Hans is, he does not know that it is the man he has been dealing with because Hans uses a false accent, but this is set up really well because at the beginning of the movie, John hears Hans interrogating Mr. Nakatomi, and he sees Mr. Nakatomi get shot, but he never actually sees Hans because Hans is always out of John’s line of vision – I have to give my friend the credit for this observation because he pointed out to me that he loves how John couldn’t see Hans in that scene because it allows Hans to be able to come face to face with him later on, and John initially does not know it is him because he has never seen him before, and unlike his cronies, Hans is wearing a suit so he is able to pass as an escaped hostage for a little while. It is really well done and it is an example of how little details can make such a big difference in how how things play out. The movie is long and there are a lot of moving parts but it is so action packed and fast paced that it never feels like it is over two hours long. If you like action movies then you’ll love Die Hard, it is that simple because there are some brilliant action sequences and fight scenes that really make you want to cheer. There are so many moments that I love and I could discuss this movie forever because everytime I watch, I find something else that I love. Another point that I have to make is the irony that is used through music in this movie. There is something brilliantly ironic about Hans and his team taking over the building while “Ode to Joy” is playing – it is a brilliant juxtaposition. 

Final Thoughts. 

I said earlier that I would say that Die Hard is possibly my favourite movie, and that is a hard thing to decide with any sort of finality when you watch movies and study movies all the time like I do. I love so many different movies, and I have different categories of movies that I love. I have a favourite Disney movie, a favourite Christmas movie, a favourite Halloween movie, I have movies that make me feel nostalgic, I have movies that I love to watch when I’m feeling sad and need a pick me up, so it is really hard to pick one movie and say that it is my favourite because I have lots of favourites, but overall I think I have to say that Die Hard is my favourite movie. I love it. I never tire of watching it. I love the premise, the plot, the characters, the action, the heart, the film techniques used, I just love every second of this movie and I cannot recommend it enough. 

This has been Movie Monday. I really hope you enjoyed it because I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. Have you seen Die Hard? What do you think of this movie? Let me know. Here’s to the first of my festive movie discussions here on Katelovesliterature.com. I am so excited for all that is to come this month. Stay tuned. 

Kate xo.  

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