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Die Hard

40 Storeys Of Sheer Adventure!  

Year: 1988 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 (70mm) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by John McTiernan 
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginal VelJohnson  
An image from Die Hard

In a world in which action films are mass produced and are all too often terrible, disappointing, corny or even all three, Die Hard stands apart as a classic action thriller. Bruce Willis is the tank-top wearing, machine gun wielding police detective John McLane, placed by chance in an impossible situation of which he must be the hero, saving a building full of hostages, including his estranged wife, from the inside.

Meanwhile, as McLane makes his way around the sealed-off building through obstacles of armed criminals, elevator shafts and air vents, Hans Gruber, portrayed by Alan Rickman, unleashes chaos on the employees, giving fast-paced action and a sense of danger to the Christmas Eve setting.

What really makes this film a worthwhile watch, other than the slightly surreal experience of Rickman’s German accent, is the quick, sharp dialogue, between Willis and Rickman, as well as Willis’ classic one-liners. This diffuses the tension by interspersing high-drama shooting scenes and violence with quick wit and comic relief.

All in all, there is a reason why the Die Hard franchise is such a success, it’s a classic of the action genre and well-worth a watch. This is a film with drama, action, quick-wit and even some romance that will have you quoting its memorable moments long after the closing titles.

Jenny Andrews

New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his estranged wife and children for Christmas. However, during the office party in the Nakatomi Plaza skyscraper events take a dramatic turn when terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), seize the building and take everybody hostage. McClane manages to avoid capture but receives little help from the powerless local police department or the inept FBI. Our hero is left to single-handedly thwart the terrorists plans and save the day.

Die Hard was expertly directed by John McTiernan (described by Time Out as having been “born with a camera in one hand, and a rocket launcher in the other”). It not only managed to balance explosive action with witty humour but also showed Hollywood a different type of action hero. Compared to the bulletproof juggernauts that starred in other action films of the time, John McClane was a far more human hero. Unlike the Schwarzeneggers or Stallones, McClane was someone you could believe could be the guy next door.

Die Hard manages to mix all the elements of an action film together perfectly. The balance between dialogue and action is well chosen and the occasional humour lightens the mood without turning Die Hard into a comedy.

The choice of Bruce Willis, a relative unknown, must have seemed strange at the time. However, Willis rose to the challenge and his performance in Die Hard is simply superb. His every-man hero is both tough and believable and gives us some of cinemas most famous one-liners. Alan Rickman's performance as the terrorists' leader, Hans Gruber, can also not go without a mention. Rickman's sneering portrayal plays perfectly against Willis' more down-to-earth hero.

Die Hard was one of the most successful films of its decade, redefining its genre, and winning numerous polls as the greatest action film of all time. Don't settle for one of its inferior imitators; if you only see one action film this year, make it the best.

George Marshall

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Screenings of this film:

1993/1994 Autumn Term (70mm)
1993/1994 Autumn Term (70mm)
1995/1996 Autumn Term (70mm)
2000/2001 Autumn Term (70mm)
2003/2004 Autumn Term (70mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (70mm)
2011/2012 Spring Term (70mm)
2013/2014 Spring Term (70mm)
2016/2017 Autumn Term (35mm)
2021/2022 Spring Term (70mm)
2021/2022 Spring Term (70mm)