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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Die Harder

I've always felt that Die Hard was a great Christmas movie. What can I say? A smart alec Bruce Willis in peril on Christmas Eve shooting it out with the bad guys while quipping like Spider-Man. Yeah, that's the stuff. Sure, Frank Capra pulled our heart strings with the tale of George Bailey, but give me John McClane putting bad guys in their place for a feel good Christmas movie any day.

I sought out and ready the book Die Hard was based on. (Roderick Thorp's Nothing Lasts Forever which was written in 1979) Having read the excellent book a couple of times and seen the movie close to a dozen, I'd have to say the movie closely followed the book's content (with the exception of changing the main character from Joe Leland, who appeared in an earlier Thorp novel into John McClane, as well as a few other specific details)

Die Hard 2 (which is being run on CHCH tonight) was also based on a novel -- though, inspired by the novel is more accurate. The premise is based on Walter Wager's novel 58 minutes, which I also read, but which I doubt I'll read again. It was a decent novel, but I wasn't a fan of the omnipotent narration and style of the novel and that kept putting me off throughout the reading of it.

But the movie, directed by Renny Harlin and written by Steve E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, beautifully continues the saga of John McClane, again, on Christmas Eve, fighting off a group of terrorist bad guys. This time, instead of taking over a skyscraper, they've taken over Dulles International Airport in Washington.

It's a great, fun movie -- and having just watched a bit of it on TV, I'm remembering why I liked it so much. Not only great casting, dialogue and action, but also great writing and direction.

The scene where McClane runs out onto the field to try to warn a plane of an impending crash (due to the terrorists hacking into tower and recalibrating ground level to be 200 feet below sea-level) is made much more powerful by a few brief yet powerful glimpses into the passengers aboard the doomed flight. The writers and director allow us to really feel for these passengers as well as the crew. So when McClane is unable to save them, you really feel for the incredible loss of so many lives.

It wasn't just a plane that went down and exploded in a big Hollywood movie explosion in an action film. It was a plane filled with real people with lives, with hopes, dreams, worries, plans, smiles, loved ones.

And of course, it makes the concern over McClane's wife Holly who is on a plane circling the airport with only 90 minutes of fuel left, that much more tense.

Powerful, well written, well directed. And a good example, in my mind, of a movie that was far better than the book it was based on.

And, as I mentioned, a great movie to watch again close to Christmas.

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