Die Hard: How does the action thriller stand up to test of time – is it a Christmas movie? | Films | Entertainment |

The seminal action movie starring Bruce Willis celebrated its 30th anniversary with a brand new 4K Ultra HD™ re-master and Blu-ray. 20th Century Fox also hosted a special screening of Die Hard in all its glory on a 4k screen. The debate rages on about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not, so heading to a 4k screen in a small, intimate theatre to see it for the first time and report back on how it stands up against the test of time was the only way to judge it.

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Bruce Willis was only 33 when he starred in the first Die Hard alongside Alan Rickman as the infamous Hans Gruber.

Quotes from Die Hard have worked their way ubiquitously into our vernacular and yet to hear them said in the most nonchalant way by a haggard John McClane gives them a deeper meaning.

For those who have managed to escape seeing Die Hard, the basic plot follows New York City cop John McClane as he flies to LA to visit his wife at a party in her company’s lavish high-rise.

Plans change once a group of terrorists, led by Hans Gruber seize the building and take everyone hostage, McClane slips away and becomes the only chance anyone has in this beginning-to-end heart-stopping action thriller.

Die Hard celebrates its 30th anniversary this year (Image: PH)

Die Hard is, surprisingly, a subtle movie. Not the word you might expect to describe a film full of explosions, hanging and high stakes thieving.

But in comparison to the superhero movies of the last decade or so, Die Hard feels somehow contrastingly quieter, less heroic, more necessary and urgent.

The stakes may not be as high as Avengers: Infinity War, but they feel more palpable.

John McClane may not be as erudite as Captain America, but his frantic sarcasm brings bright humour to an otherwise distressing situation.

The best line in Die Hard isn’t his infamous ‘yippie kay yay’ nor is it the threat scrawled onto the jumper of a dead German terrorist: Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho.

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As John McClane finally makes contact with emergency services via his radio, the operator says in an overtly annoyed tone: “Sir, you know this number is for emergencies?”

An exasperated McClane hollers back in increasingly higher pitched voice: “No f*cking sh*t, lady, does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?”

Laughter rippled through the theatre even as the emergency line operator continued to be the worst employee in history.

McClane’s heroics are full of improvised absurdity, feats you know would never work in the real world, and yet because they take place without any supernatural or interplanetary assistance, they somehow feel genuine.

For all these reasons, Die Hard stands the test of time, especially given the superhero movies increasing use of grandiosity.

One of Die Hard’s most iconic lines was written on a sweater (Image: 20th Century Fox)

Die Hard’s explosions are extravagant, its stunts are hamfisted, and its acting is exactly what you expect from a movie from the 1980s and for all of that it still feels more intimate and real than a Marvel or X Men movie.

And at the end of all of it, there is a genuine relief when McClane and his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) are reunited and recommencing their marriage.

For a viewer who has never experienced Die Hard before, it was the perfect blend of humour and tension, a balance struck between Willis’ haphazardness and Rickman’s meticulousness.

For this writer, however, Die Hard is firmly not a Christmas movie, despite taking place over the festive season. 

But Christmas may be the perfect excuse to watch Die Hard again, taking a moment to experience the thrills all over again.

We’ll wait and count to three, there will not be a four.

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