My Favourite Christmas Film

Die Hard (1988)

 

Oh, how I constantly hear this isn’t a Christmas film.

John McTiernan’s masterpiece stands up there with the genuine action greats such as Hard Boiled, Mad Max: Fury Road and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

A film so ingrained in the public psyche that any subsequent action flick is immediately held up to it for comparison, often getting labelled as ‘Die Hard on/in a (fill in as applicable)’.

John McClane (Bruce Willis), a smart-mouth New York cop, flies into Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to see his estranged wife and kids.

Meeting his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), at her at her place of work, the Nakatomi building, during a Christmas party where some uninvited guests arrive; a group of terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).

Gruber takes everyone hostage after McClane manages to sneak away, but can he alone foil the terrorists’ plans and save the day?

A star-making role for Willis, with the filmmakers smartly allowing him to just do his thing and display his natural everyman charm, is only just overshadowed by Rickman’s euro-trash villain.

Forget your Hannibal Lecters, Darth Vaders and Blofelds; Rickman shows just how to play a bad guy.

Although those illustrious names rightly hold a place amongst the best baddies in movie history, they’re all otherworldly, full-of-pomp and over-the-top grandeur as they play up to the camera.

As a villain, Rickman’s naturally going to display these traits, along with the joy of being bad, but there’s a sense of control in an understated and intelligent performance.

Die Hard hits you with an early hammer-blow, doing a wonderful job of setting up Gruber in his early scene with Mr. Takagi, allowing us to see his debonair charm, intelligence, ruthlessness and organised efficiency. He’s a no-nonsense man and that kill is truly shocking, instantly giving Gruber your undivided attention.

Die Hard keeps the story simple while adding a few sharp twists and turns, but it’s the films humour, engaging characters and heart-pounding action that sets it apart from the rest; a collective effort with everyone involved coming together at the very top of his or her game and delivering an unquantifiable masterpiece.

Now, this is all well and good, but Christmas film? Many a give simplistic argument in justifying its yuletide status: it’s set during a Christmas party on Christmas Eve, there’s characters wishing each other a Merry Christmas, a couple of festive tunes (Christmas In Hollis and Let It Snow), Christmas trees, a terrorist wearing a Santa hat and a fetching new HO-HO-HO jumper, a plastic Santa, Christmas lights and other little nods that tick the festive box.

While these add to its Christmas validity, Die Hard does offer several other arguments in its defence.

Firstly it’s just fun; an entertaining rollercoaster ride that will leave you drained and exhilarated all at the same time.

There’s unashamed quality to Die Hard as it revels in its action-packed violence and stunt work.

This is simply a joy to watch and what better time of year is there to watch something fun? After all, how many people watch ‘The Great Escape’ this time of year and what does that have to do with Christmas?

Die Hard has become synonymous with Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’ – what a perfect analogy.

But without attempting to get snooty, Die Hard is also about family and missed opportunities.

We have a man flying over to put things right with his wife, but they end up arguing, he doesn’t apologise and terrorists arrive before he can make amends.

It’s a story of a man who should’ve said sorry but didn’t and who can’t relate to that?

Sure, you don’t watch Die Hard to analyse it. You watch to see John McClane take names and crack wise. Whether you see Die Hard as a Christmas film or not is a matter of opinion, but I know what I’ll be watching Christmas Eve.

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