By Russel D McLean
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Someone asked me recently what my favourite Christmas movie was. I think they expected me to say “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and yes, I think that’s a great movie, but there’s one film that’s become very much a part of the festive season for me…
Last year, I got very excited when the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) decided to make its special Christmas screening DIE HARD. Yes, the Bruce Willis film. The one with the sequels that got progressively worse until finally we had an incomprehensible showdown between a jet plane and a truck (seriously) at the climax of an already incomprehensible mess of sound and fury (but bonus points for using The Creedence on the soundtrack).
But the original DIE HARD remains one of my go-to Christmas movies.
See, DIE HARD may have guns and explosions and that really painful moment with Bruce Willis stepping barefoot on its glass, but at its heart it’s a hopeful and optimistic movie. After all, John MacLane is just a guy who wants to get his family back together at Christmas. He wants to make up with his wife and see his kids. He’s not looking for trouble and even when he does find it, the thing at the forefront of his mind is keeping his family safe.
And that’s why he’s such a great character. He’s no real superhero. He’s just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to do what he thinks is the right thing.
And there’s something kind of nice about that.
Of course, it helps that McClane is a New York Cop and a proficient shot. It helps that he’s tougher than the average guy. And it really helps that he’s pretty inventive (in the first film, some improvising with explosives and an office chair creates some real fireworks).
The film is just great fun from the go. The humour is spot on (if sometimes a little obvious), and the bad guys’ motivations are pretty clear (Even with the misdirection – they’re thieves and not terrorists – we are clear at all times as to their goals and methods) and of course there’s Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, possibly the suavest bad guy of all time. With his sarcastic smile and his clipped accent, Gruber is the ultimate in cool bad guys. Not too far over the top, but just nicely pantomimeish – so evil he’s fun.
By the end of the film, we find ourselves rooting for John to get his wife back, defeat the bad guys and ride off into the sunset. And its spoiling very little to say that’s exactly what happens. Those final few moments, as “Let It Snow” swells on the sountrack and the camera pans over the carnage that has ensued are somehow among the most enjoyable moments in cinema. Die Hard isn’t just a great action movie. It’s a feel good movie with blood and swearing. It’s a life-affirming flick where quite a few people die.
And its just great fun.
And no Christmas is complete without it.