I can't really call this post just "Favorite Film"; I don't really have one specific favorite. I have a loose, revolving Top Ten list. But I'm pretty sure that at least in the last fifteen years or so, this movie hasn't left the list, so I can definitely call it A favorite film.
It's not hard to say why I love it--I'm certainly not alone in that--but it isn't easy either. It just works on every level. I don't care if there are moments that are a little schmaltzy (when Al the cop kills Alexander Gudonov [RIP] at the end, for example). It simply is, in my opinion, one of the greatest film ever made.
Oh, yes, I hear you scoff. Die Hard is light entertainment. It's an action movie. It's not Citizen Kane or The Godfather (which is another that stays high up on my list. LOVE The Godfather with a passion.)
But why does a movie have to be deep to be great? (Besides, I don't agree. I think Die Hard has some very deep moments and meanings.) Die Hard shows us what film can do; not just a slow, quiet movie about someone's death, not a character study, but really what film can do: transport us. Show us things that even now, 20 years after the film's original release, still make our eyeballs pop from the sheer ecstatic audacity of it. It shows us what a good script, surefooted direction, and outstanding performances can create. Not a step is out of line in Die Hard, not a moment is wasted.
One of the reasons why I think the sequels failed to live up to the original (other than simply the truth, which is sequels almost never do live up--the exception of course being The Godfather Part II which is so good I want to cry) is they lack the claustrophobia of the first. Terrorists in the building. Hero in the building. Nobody else gets in or out of the building. The entire film takes place there--in an office setting so familiar to us all, rendered unrecognizeable by the violence. Yes, we have scenes right outside the building, but even then, the Nakitomi Tower looms in the background. We never forget for a second what's happening in there--even the film's many moments of levity don't allow it, as they carry that same claustrophobia (even if it's simply the tight walls of a closed mind.) It's the sheer perfect tension of the set-up that enables everyone else to concentrate on the rest of the job: entertaining us. And they do it with confidence and ease. It's a beautiful thing.
Last year when my stepdaughter came to visit, the hubs and I decided it was time to start her film education. She's old enough now to handle most R-rated films (with the exception of stuff like Fast Times, which we'll probably wait a little longer on) and frankly, she doesn't get to watch a lot of good movies in her house.
The first movie we picked to show her was Die Hard. She's a little older now than I was when I first saw it (in the theatre on its original release), so it seemed like a good time.
And wow, was that fun. Every once in a while I'd glance over at her and watch her, her eyes saucer-wide, glued to the screen, her mouth slightly open. She was completely enraptured; I think I could have thrown things at her and she wouldn't have noticed.
That's what a great movie can do. It can capture us and hold us so tightly that for those few hours we forget everything else. And that's why Die Hard is a great movie.