Die Hard, 1988.
Directed by John McTiernan.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, and Bonnie Bedelia.
Die Hard gets its umpteenth release on home video with a new Blu-ray that’s simply a port of previous editions, but without all of the bonus features found in those releases. However, it’s fairly cheap, so it’s a worthwhile purchase if you haven’t grabbed this classic film in high-def yet.
I remember going to see Die Hard with a friend on a warm summer New Jersey night in 1988, knowing only that it was supposed to be pretty good. Movie-going was much simpler in those pre-Internet days, when you actually had to talk to people to find out if a flick was any good, and you could wait a few weeks to see it without worrying about avoiding spoilers on social media.
(Yes, I had to walk barefoot up a steep hill, both ways, too!)
Die Hard remains a favorite of mine. I always name it when someone asks about my favorite Christmas movie, and I still enjoy revisiting it every few years. It’s a finely crafted film with solid acting performances and a plot that adheres to the classic “Chase your protagonist up a tree in act one, throw rocks at them in act two, and get them down in act three” paradigm.
It also established Bruce Willis’s John McClane as a different kind of action hero during an era when the good guys in these kinds of films all had to be of the bombastic Arnold Schwarzenegger variety. McClane is a cop with a New York attitude, but he’s not a badass – he’s a bit unsure of himself, and he only survives because he’s streetwise and uses his instincts to avoid deadly situations.
Even the bad guys are interesting and have depth to them – there’s a nice little twist to their scheme, and I’ve always appreciated Hans Gruber’s precise attention to detail as his plans unfold. Alan Rickman applies the right amount of panache to keep Gruber from becoming a stereotype, and he and his men present a realistic threat to McClane. Even though I know the good guy will prevail in the end, I always wonder if maybe this time he’ll fail when I watch the movie again.
And as someone who has dabbled in screenwriting, I’ve always appreciated Die Hard’s clockwork script too. Like Back to the Future, its story unfolds with methodical precision, and it does a great job of creating set-ups and payoffs. For example, the reason why McClane spends the movie barefoot is set up so well that it’s easy to miss even when you’ve seen the film a couple times. I never thought much about it until I forced myself to really pay close attention during the opening scene.
Since Die Hard has been around for three decades, it’s been on home video in just about every format possible during those years. Unfortunately, this new 30th anniversary Blu-ray from Fox is just a port of previous editions, so if you have the movie on Blu-ray already, you can skip this edition.
If you have that old two-disc Five Star Collection DVD, you’ll probably want to hold onto it since this Blu-ray doesn’t have all the bonus features that were found there. However, since this new disc is pretty cheap, it’s a worthwhile purchase if you want to upgrade the movie to 1080p. It’s the bonus disc found in the new 4K release of the film, if you’ve made the leap to the latest format.
Here’s what you’ll find on this disc:
Three commentary tracks: First up is a discussion with director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. They were recorded separately and edited together, so they don’t get a chance to interact, but there’s plenty of interesting information to learn here, such as the ways in which the script was tweaked while the movie was being made.
The second track is a scene-specific one with special effects supervisor Richard Edlund, who only talks for part of the movie, while the last track is a subtitle text commentary featuring co-screenwriter Steven E. deSouza, composer Michael Kamen, McTiernan, Alan Rickman, and others. Even though the Edlund track only fills about 40 minutes of the movie, you can pair it with the sub-title track and kill two birds with one stone.
The Newscasts: This is about eight minutes of outtakes from the TV newscast segments shown in the film.
There’s also a stills gallery, old articles from Cinefex and American Cinematographer, a digital copy of the screenplay, trailers, TV spots, and a code for an online copy of the movie. Unfortunately, the deleted scene found on the old Five Star Collection DVD isn’t here, nor are the outtakes and bloopers, as well as some other bonus features.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★