So, it’s 2007 and it’s been twelve years since the last Die Hard film. What did we get? Did we get any of the characters from the other films? Besides John McClane, no. Did we see the same interesting and relatable John McClane character from the last three films? No. Did we see an action film as contained as the originals? No. Can we even call this a “Die Hard” film? No. But was it an action packed movie that kept its audience entertained throughout its duration? Yes.
I may be the only person I know who liked this film. I went into the theater wanting an exciting action picture that would be great “eye-candy” and keep me on the edge of my seat, and that’s what I got. The film’s action scenes have great scale and are never disappointing. Consider the scene when John McClane is being attacked by a jet plane while he is driving a semi-truck on a collapsing freeway. Wow, just wow. I remember being blown away by that scene and to this day it still excites me. When I step back and look at that one scene objectively, yes I can see how over the top it is and how unbelievably unrealistic it is. But in the moment, in context of the film, I buy into it. I don’t find myself doubting that John survives the jump off of the jet, into the rubble, while the jet explodes behind him. And that’s how the rest of the movie is for me. It’s unrealistic and it knows it, it has fun with it, and I have fun with it too.
After a few years of the film being out, I don’t think that I will be giving anything away when I talk about the plot points. Timothy Olyphant plays Thomas Gabriel, an angry computer hacker who, with the backing of dozens of faceless/nameless thugs, is trying to systematically destroy America just to teach it a lesson. Gabriel once worked for the government and suggested that America’s infrastructure is weak and vulnerable to attack. Because he suggested that, he was rejected and “crucified,” so to teach America a lesson (and, overall, rob every citizen in the country), he attacks the system. Mostly by chance, but lucky for us, John McClane gets mixed up in everything tries to stop it. But, really, who cares? The plot, which is just as unbelievable as the film that surrounds it, is just a hook to hang a good action picture on.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I am prepared to talk about its flaws and how preposterous its action sequences are. Let us go back to whole thing about John McClane in a semi, being chased by a jet plan, while speeding along a collapsing freeway. How could anything like this happen? Why does every support beam for the freeway give out when only one is shot? Why doesn’t the fighter pilot shoot at John during the hundred opportunities that he had to do so? Why, when the pilot actually does shoot, does he keep missing (is a whole semi-truck that hard of a target to hit?)? Why would a fighter pilot be firing missiles and a machine gun around where hundreds of pedestrians are standing? Why would the pilot fly under the semi-truck when it is clearly about to fall on top of the plane? How? How could anything in this movie happen? I could ask many more questions about that one scene, like the many questions I have after John jumps off of the plane, but I would be writing for way longer than I would like to. And that is just for one scene. Almost the whole movie is like that. But I don’t have a problem with this because the movie sets up a tone that allows for scenes like this to happen. I get the feeling that this movie isn’t going for realism (obviously), that is knows what it is and has fun with it.
With a scene like that, you can make of it what you will. You can look at it and be turned off by how unrealistic it is, or you can be excited by it, know that it fits with the film’s tone, and move on. And what I chose to do is enjoy it, and it was very easy for me. I still recommend this movie even after I ask myself those questions that I did above, because all of those questions are an afterthought for me. During the film I didn’t ask those questions. I wasn’t thinking about how unrealistic it was. During the film, I was drawn in and giving the film my complete attention.
Also, how cool is it to see Bruce Willis reprising his most iconic role after over a decade? With Die Hard being one of my favorite film series, I think it is a lot of fun to see the same sarcastic character up on the screen again. Though the film really isn’t a “Die Hard” film, I would say that John McClane is as interesting of a character as ever; this time around he isn’t tortured by his broken relationship with his wife, but this time he is tortured by his broken relationship with his daughter, which is a really refreshing side to John McClane that we have never seen. In the past three films, it’s been about him and his wife, but his children are rarely mentioned and, if I can remember correctly, there is only one shot of them in the entire original trilogy. The only disappointing thing about McClane is that now he is practically invincible. One of the best scenes in any Die Hard film is in the first one when John is sitting in the bathroom after he ran over all of the broken glass with his bare feet: he is vulnerable, emotional, and you start to really understand that he is just a man. But in “Live Free”, he can jump off of any height, be hit by anything at any speed, or be shot however many times and still stand right up to keep fighting, like nothing ever happened.
From my experience with talking to people about this film, I’d say that nine out of every ten people hated it. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is a terrible film that should have never made. But I like it either way. I will always enjoy this movie because of what it means to me. I remember the first time I saw it theaters (I saw it a total of three times), me and one of my best friends, Bryson Lindsley, rode our bikes all of the way to theater to meet up with another best friend, Andy Moe. Because of how far away we lived, that was an all-day event. I was having one of the most memorable days of my life, and I topped it off with this exciting film. I also saw it one time with my sister and little brother, and then again with Andy. This movie brings me back to some really fine memories of my early teenage years, so its nostalgia factor is high for me. Maybe that’s why I like this movie, because of nostalgia, because my experience with it was more than another trip to the theater. I guess, in a way, I saw a different movie than everybody else saw. I recommend it, and after you see it, I hope you will too.