Die Hard: Action Meets Christmas Tradition (Day #25)

Title: Die Hard

Release: July 1988

Director: John McTiernan

Writer(s): Roderick Thorp (novel), Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza (screenplay)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason

*Warning, this review may contain spoilers.

Welcome to the Nakatomi Plaza, a place where action and Christmas collide. Ride the elevator to the 30th floor where the office Christmas party is just kicking off, but keep your head on a swivel because this building is rife with terrorists. Whatever you do, stay off the roof because you may catch a bullet in your noggin from your own government. If heights aren’t your thing, swing on down to the lower parking level and have Argyle give you a lift, if he can stay off the phone long enough. Oh, and if you see Tony on the elevator, tell him Karl says, “Ho, Ho, Ho.” It’s an inside joke, he’ll get it. Again, we want to welcome you to John McClane’s Nakatomi Plaza.

The Story

Die Hard was a smash success upon its 1988 release, but nobody predicted its endurance over the last 30+ years. While it is a movie most often enjoyed during the Christmas season, it’s an easy watch any time of the year. Bruce Willis delivers one of his most exciting and iconic performances in his breakout role as John McClane, the NYPD cop who unluckily finds himself as the lone non-hostage in a locked down office building in Los Angeles. Terrorists run-amok as they take the Nakatomi Corporation employees hostage. Unbeknownst to terrorist leader Hans Gruber, one of his hostages is McClane’s estranged wife. The plot thickens when McClane starts picking off Hans’ crew one by one as the action simultaneously escalates. Can McClane win back his wife and get the hostages home in time for Christmas?

Not Much of a Christmas Movie

Yes, Die Hard does take place during Christmas, and a few visual and musical cues are thrown in for good measure. But it never quite feels like a traditional “Christmas Movie” where its entire theme is Christmas-centric. Somewhere along the way, Die Hard picked up momentum as a good watch during December, and decades later it is a bonafide Christmas classic. It has now become a Christmas tradition to watch Die Hard after the kids have gone to sleep because, c’mon, this ain’t no kids movie.

Yippee ki yay, mother fucker.

The adult themes might make Die Hard a tough watch for some, namely those who prefer wholesome family movies around a religious holiday. As an action-movie aficionado (seriously, come at me bro), I can appreciate that. But for those of us who are played out on gumdrops and candy canes, children’s showtunes, overdone decorations, and moral stories, Die Hard is exactly what we need.

Subtleties

The Christmas theme is really just an ancillary part of Die Hard playing a less-vital part than one might think. Truth be told, the story could function WITHOUT it, but I’m not suggesting it should. The Christmas theme is subtle, but it’s not the subtlety I’m suggesting when I labeled this paragraph heading “subtleties.” I’m referring to the underlying theme of love and friendship. The bullet-spraying action, explosions, and cheesy 80’s dialogue may be the fun part of the movie, but the characters are its lifeblood. What starts as a professional-courtesy type of relationship between McClane and LAPD Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) slowly expands into a close-knit friendship as the night wears on.

Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.

McClane’s friendship with Sgt. Powell isn’t the subtlety I’m referring to as director McTiernan puts it right in front of his audience. Their evolving relationship is a refreshing addition to the everyday guns-and-explosions macho man flick. McClane and Sgt. Powell are easy for us to connect with due to their everyman characteristics. Sgt. Powell has a baby on the way and his nerves are truly shot. McClane is struggling in his marriage but he still loves her and is hellbent on protecting her. These human qualities are seldom seen in popcorn action movies; qualities that this writer does not take for granted. This human element is what gives Die Hard its staying power and likability among non-action-movie fans.

Conclusion

As far as classic Christmas movies go, this is a tough sell. It’s not very “Christmasy” in the way A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street are, but America has spoken! Fortunately, Die Hard has aged exceptionally well making it a perfect candidate for continued Christmas popularity. Clearly not for kids, Die Hard embodies enjoying Christmas as an adult. With cheesy one-liners, guns-a-blazin’ action, and enjoyable characters, there is no reason to not indulge in Die Hard this Christmas season. Sex, drugs, and Bruce Willis’ quippy mouth lead the charge in this jam-packed Christmas classic.

Welcome to the party, pal.

Thanks for reaching the end of the article! This piece is apart of our Modern Neon Christmas Bonanza, where we are looking at 25 of our favorite or well-known Christmas movies.  So click through to see the previous and next movie, or go back to the home page to find your favorite movie!

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