Die Hard - 24th December 2010

"You ask for miracles... I give you the F B I"

So I put off writing this review for two weeks
A) because it's been Christmas and New Year (Happy New Year by the way!) and
B) because I have no idea how you review a near perfect film.
What do I say? There isn't one thing I would change about the film, it is a sheer genius exercise in seemingly effortless, quintessentially American film making.
The whole set-up is so perfectly simple and it plays out in such a way that, even now, after all the copy cat films, the analysing of the apparently obvious yet deceptively well thought out formula and the 100 viewings it is still a frantically enjoyable, thrilling, exciting and amusing watch.
As far as American style film theory and production is concerned it is a masterpiece, the writing and characterisation has never really been bettered in a popcorn flick (though many have tried), the direction is flawless, the acting a delicious treat with every single cast member both big and small savouring every wonderful syllable and making even some of the most mundane words instantly quoteable and 22 years later, apart from maybe some of the fashion, it hasn't dated a bit, not even the special effects.

I came to see this on Christmas Eve, in a cinema full of fans, some of them quite merry and drunk, at midnight in New York and really, it's one of the best ways to see a film ever.
If there are recurring themes to this ongoing blog it's that I can't say enough good things about seeing films in the cinema, especially classic films at midnight and the other is my theory that we haven't really had it as good as we did in the 80s as far as modern, American movies are concerned.
While the auteurs of the 70s were influenced primarily by European films and the so-called indie directors of the 90s drew heavily and openly from everything that came before, toned down the action and brought up the dialogue, in the 80s America learned to blend invention, craft and box office in such a way that we've had difficulty replicating it since.

Die Hard is a perfect example of this, if not the genuine originator and the high water mark by which all future one-man against an army action movies would later be judged. It has a premise you could explain in under ten words (although the people who designed and wrote the above poster seem to have had a real problem doing this!) and yet in executing that premise, the film-makers are careful to give absolutely every speaking role a detailed character with a subtle and purposeful arc.
For example: In the news station studio, that we really only see twice in the film, we are aware of the tensions between the staff and the foolishness of the preening smarmy anchor, it is all in the quick yet perfectly timed and played detail; detail in the writing, detail in the performance, the set design and the direction. Now there is no real plotting need for any of it but what it does so expertly is it gives you something to watch and enjoy at all times and it sets this high concept narrative, that requires a fair suspension of disbelief, in a realistic setting we can all appreciate, understand, empathise with or laugh at. That is Die Hard's ace up its sleeve, especially when you consider that the action mainly consists of a little gun play, some running, some punching and a couple of sizeable explosions but nothing extraordinary by today's standards.
Also, long before the 'wear your influences on your sleeve', pop culture nodding antics of Tarantino and crew, Die Hard, from the moment stuff starts to go down, immediately acknowledges the updating of its conventions from the old Western genre in the quick fire radio patter between the hero and the villain because what is Die Hard if not a Western, after all doesn't a stranger ride into town and save the town folk from some low-lifes?

It is fantastically fun and a must see, especially at Christmas.

10 out of 10 stuffed and roasted German turkeys. (see what I did there?)
Points from the Wife - 10 out of 10

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