My best friend has said more than once that it doesn’t feel like Christmas for him until he sees Die Hard, primarily because its setting is Christmas Eve at the Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles where a lavish holiday party is taken hostage by a crew of high tech thieves before the heroic everyman John McClane (Bruce Willis) saves the day.
It is generally considered among the greatest action movies of all time, and this is true, but I also believe the true reason the film is still recalled so fondly to this day and that people such as my best friend return to it again and again at Christmas are because of the numerous fantastic moments that crop up when no guns are being fired and no explosions are ripping through the building. It is a movie as much about little asides and sly, twisted Christmas references and character personality as about the action.
10. “He’s still alive. Only John can drive somebody that crazy.”
There is no better reason for our everyday action hero to keep going to such ludicrous lengths than the uber-fiery Holly Gennero and/or McClane (Bonnie Bedelia), the woman whom John wants to save and re-woo, and it’s moments such as the one when the main terrorist’s right hand man busts up a drink cart right in front of their hostages which prompts Holly to smile and say this line because she knows exactly what it means. Is it just me or did the 3rd and 4th installments in this series from a distinct lack of Mrs. McClane?
9. “Merry Christmas.”
When Hans Gruber and his crack team of terrorists finally crack the seventh lock on the vault containing their precious $640 million in bearer bonds, Ode To Joy strikes up on the soundtrack. Arriving later in the movie it is merely a reminder that for all the bad stuff going on, Die Hard, more than anything else, is just meant to be a good time.
8. “Hans! Booby!”
Ellis, the master negotiator, coke-head and world class idiot attempting to negotiate with Hans and McClane in order for McClane to give himself up contains one of the finest uses of product placement in cinema history when Ellis is brought a glass and a can of, ahem, Coke in the midst of this inevitably disastrous tete-a-tete. There is just something unsettling about that shot of Ellis, desperate, down to his last second, clutching that glass of Coca-Cola that gets me every time.
7. “When these revolutionary brothers and sisters are free…”
When Hans is making his false demands for his “brothers” to be released to stall for time he lists “In Sri Lanka, the nine members of the Asian Dawn movement” and when Karl gives him a strange look he advises, simply, “I read about them in Time Magazine.” Movies are packed wall to wall with scenes of terrorists reciting demands and this moment is a nice little spin on those scenes. Well done, and one of the many, many reasons Hans Gruber is so much more than your ordinary villain.
6. “No, sir. You couldn’t drag me away.”
One of the finest aspects of Die Hard is how it eloquently morphs into a Buddy Cop Movie without the two Buddies ever coming face to face until the closing (and gratuitous) sequence. Reginald VelJohnson was simply (disbelievingly?) scintillating as Sgt. Al Powell, the man who fields the call from base to scope out the tower and finds himself reporting the crisis and communicating via CB for the rest of the movie with “Roy” (i.e. John McClane). And Powell’s best moment is when he finally calls out Deputy Dwayne T. Robinson, on site to be wrong about absolutely everything (played by Paul Gleason who made a career out of play characters who were wrong about absolutely everything). Robinson in a sense is comedic relief which makes it that much more impressive that VelJohnson makes this moment so spine-tingling. “Why don’t you wake up and smell what you shovelin’?!” Go, Al, go!!!
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