Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Die Hard Review (Classic Write-Up)

2012 looked like it was finally, finally, finally the year where Bruce Willis proved to the world that he was indeed a good actor. Wes Andersons Moonrise Kingdom delivered an excellent supporting performance from the actor while Rian Johnsons Looper took Willis to a darker, more antagonistic direction. The future looked bright for the actor...and then 2013 happened. Appearing in a trio of sequels (two of which he starred in) that consisted of A Good Day To Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Red 2 showed an actor not on the cusp of a rebirth, but a guy who just doesn't like his job anymore (it didn't help that an infamous interview on the Red 2 press tour took the actors frustrations to new heights).

With him appearing in a Woody Allen movie next year, maybe we'll get more glimpses into the side of Willis that is loaded with talent, as watching his 1988 career-maker movie Die Hard (which I hadn't seen before prior to this past Sunday) proves why the fellow became a household name in the first place. Similar to Tom Cruises turn as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible movies, Willis brings an air of authenticity to his action antics, his vulnerabilities in combat are what make him strong as a character.

Before John McClane starred in one of the worst movies of 2013, he was just a cop trying to get to his wife's Christmas party, hoping to repair their estranged relationship. It's a simple set-up, one that puts the protagonists inner turmoil in a surprisingly nuanced light. McClane isn't depicted a 100% perfect guy in these scenes, and his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), isn't depicted as an over-the-top bad guy for the choices she's made in their relationship. Like I said, McClane is the very definition of a real life guy, an affable fellow who makes decisions both good and bad in the course of his life.

He's also soon the only one who can stop a group of terrorists who have taken the building where his wifes Christmas party is being held hostage. Leading this division of crooks is Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a foe who holds a sense of calm dignity even when dishing out graphic violence. He's got an unwavering sense of confidence, fully believing there's no way this evil plan can go awry. Pitting that against McClanes relentless drive to take these thugs down and save the hostages (among them is his wife) makes for a riveting affair.

As the minutes tick by in the feature, I was worried the film would toss away any sense of semblance or coherency in the story in favor of creating action sequences (like that aforementioned fifth entry in this franchise did with disarming regularity), but thankfully, there's a more exciting pacing running throughout the plot. No plot point occurs within the film without it having a larger significance in the grand scheme of the entire story. Every bit of payoff makes the feature a meticulously written affair and this devotion to subtlety extends to the characters, who get small moments that enhance their characters ten-fold (one of the villainous henchmen, for instance, wants to exact vengeance on John McClane for killing his brother early on in the movie).

Aside from examples of technology that obviously came from 1988 (I find that to be more charming than anything else, for what it's worth), Die Hard hasn't aged a day since its initial release, with its intricately designed thrills and thrilling pacing putting many modern day summer blockbusters to shame. Yes, maybe Bruce Willis obviously doesn't care about many movies he makes these days, but Die Hard is an excellent reminded why we should care about him as an actor.

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