Bruce Willis was a virtual unknown at the time he secured the lead role of John McClane in "Die Hard." His biggest stint was on the TV series "Moonlighting," making this film just a slight change of pace. Add in a mix of Hollywood's best action writers, producer and director, and you've got an American classic.
John Mclane (Willis) gets off his plane in New York, hoping to meet his estranged wife during a business party at Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve. After finding her inside the 40-story building, a group of international terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) begins their plan to steal $640 million worth of bonds from a secured safe inside the building. Unbeknownst to them, the 11-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department beings to slowly dismantle their plans along with the help of a few friends.
Just looking at the credits of this film proves just how flawlessly things came together. Director John McTiernan gave us "Predator" along with the "Die Hard 2." He is also tapped to direct a fourth installment called "Die Hard 4.0." Writer Steven de Souza penned "Running Man" for Arnold Schwarzenegger and the video game adaptation "Street Fighter." Finally, Jon de Bont gave us the cinematography for this and "Basic Instinct" while he directed another classic, "Speed."
Though Bruce Willis is the obvious focus, the entire movie is stolen by a brilliant performance from the terrorist lead, Alan Rickman. Within minutes of his on-screen appearance the audience instantly hates him with a passion, his cold stare and violent ways of persuasion are the icing. More proof is the films best scene, which is surprisingly, not based on action.
Late in the film, McClane and Rickman's character, Hans, come face to face for the first time. Grueber ingeniously makes himself out to be an escaped hostage, begging for his life against a man who has no idea whom he's facing. Sharing a cigarette while talking about the takeover, McClane hands Grueber a weapon, putting the audience on edge. It's a flawless example of writing, direction, acting, and tension, a scene any aspiring filmmaker should watch.
Of course, the action is what made the film so famous in the first place, and "Die Hard" contains it in droves. The special effects, which are still superb over 16-years later, were nominated for an Oscar. The shootouts are a template for every action scene to come after it and the hand-to-hand combat fights are the stuff classics are made of. The only logical complaint comes at the end of the film when Bruce Willis and his wife enter into a limo (from the start of the film) and drive off. With such a massive amount of blood loss, shouldn't he be taken out on an ambulance? (***** out of *****)