Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever Made

'Tis the season for Christmas movies and specials, and we've seen our share of them during the past few weeks. We started with the Grinch and Charlie Brown, which we've owned for years. Then we picked up a DVD set with Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. It's a Wonderful Life will have to wait until after Sera goes to bed, but the greatest Christmas movie of them all is, of course, Die Hard.

My wife laughs at me whenever I make mention of this, but it's absolutely true. Released in 1988, this movie made Bruce Willis a star. Yes, it came out in the summer, but the setting if you'll recall, is a Christmas Eve party in Los Angeles, where New York detective John McClane, is reunited with his estranged wife, Holly, played by Bonnie Bedelia. No sooner does McClane arrive at the party, but a group of criminals takes the building by force. McClane hides in his wife's office, and then escapes to the unfinished upper floors, armed with only his nine millimeter semi-auto, he wreaks havoc on the operations of the villainous Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his accomplices.

The great thing about this movie is the very thing that made Live Free or Die Hard such a bad movie. There is no leaping from the tail of a crashing jet. There is no explosion that doesn't belong in the movie for plot reasons. It's just McClane, running around an office building barefoot with an increasingly dirty tank top, mixing it up with the bad guys and actually getting hurt. He doesn't shrug off bullet wounds. Like Indiana Jones, McClane's pain isn't ignored. He's slowed by injury. He gets punchy from blood loss. And the misdirection by the bad guys was completely fresh and novel at the time.

One of the bad things about Die Hard is going to be a problem for movies (and novels) from now on; current technology dates the story badly. If McClane had posessed a simple cell phone, events would have been drastically different. One of the weaknesses the bad guys capitalize on after they cut the phone lines is the lack of information about them that the police and FBI have. McClane could have changed all of that as well as the timing of their arrival by being able to identify himself as a police officer when calling in the emergency.

Despite any of its problems, Die Hard remains a top-notch action movie--no, make that a top notch Christmas movie, indeed a prototype for what action movies should be and so seldom are.

Yippie-Kay-Yay--er, you know the rest.


KC Ryan said...

Greatest Christmas Movie Ever, buh?

Hmm... looks like I'll have to give you that one! :)

KC Ryan said...

By the way, you're not the only one with that opinion... :)