Die Hard or ‘Twas the Heist before Christmas

Die HardDie Hard is the quintessential Christmas film. I’ll repeat that for all you heathen non-believers out there. Die Hard is the quintessential film for the festive period. It provides a much more resonant and authentic Christmas experience than many other so-called ‘holiday’ themed classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life ( it’s about suicide) and Home Alone (it’s about parental neglect and child vigilantism).

Let’s face it… for most of us, Christmas involves being trapped in a building filled with people you either mildly dislike, are ambivalent to or loathe with a passion. Die Hard is no different. There’s your close female relative’s new boyfriend, (Hans Gruber). He’s slick, he’s urbane, he’s sophisticated. He’s a pretentious socio-path who would sooner carve your heart out than cut you a slice of turkey.

Then there’s the estranged husband, (John McClane) who’s turned up like a barnacle clinging desperately onto the sinking ship of matrimony, begging for one last shot at reconciliation and happiness. He loves taking off his shoes and wearing his wife-beater vest and likes a drink (or two or three). And, being a New York City policeman, he’s not averse to cracking skulls if he has to. In fact, he’s secretly looking forward to the opportunity when it arises, which it surely will once the mulled wine kicks in and someone makes the mistake of getting Monopoly out.

And really the whole monstrous charade is just an excuse to get us to part with our hard-earned lucre. Perhaps for you, it’s been having to buy a pashmina for that disapproving aunt. Maybe that friend or flatmate whom you weren’t going to get anything has given notice of the gift they have bought for you, thus obligating you to reciprocate or come across looking like a cheapskate/Scrooge. Possibly you were roped into doing your work’s Secret Santa and drew the resident office weirdo whom you’re fairly certain lives in a Unabomber-style shack in the woods along with his dead mother.

The money on offer in Die Hard is over $600 million in negotiable bearer bonds, (whatever they are) and cunning old Hans Gruber has come up with just the right plan and assortment of pan-European henchmen (Karl, Marco, Uli, Theo and Fritz) to snaffle every last dime. After which they are going to head off to catch a Kraftwerk gig and celebrate their ill-gotten gains with a couple of steins. Ein prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

It is, of course, the 80s. How can you tell? Well, Bruce Willis still has hair, cutting the phone lines is an effective way of severing communications and most of the terrorists are white Gerard Depardieu lookalikes. Alan Rickman warms up for his later infamous roles as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Severus Snape by giving a creepily compelling performance as Gruber, who struts around like a dandified cross between… uh… the Sheriff of Nottingham and Severus Snape. The bearer bonds belong to a Japanese multinational company based in Los Angeles, so Gruber takes the employees hostage along with the building in which they are hosting their Christmas party.

It’s left to McClane to play the Grinch and foil the terrorists’ plans. Rather than stealing their presents, this takes the form of methodically executing Gruber’s lackeys and leaving them for him to discover in sequence rather like a macabre advent calendar. The combined forces of the LAPD, FBI and local media also show up and mainly participate in a Christmas version of It’s a Knock Out by providing targets for the terrorists to blow up and generally prove a hindrance to McClane’s efforts to defeat Gruber and be back home in time to watch Downton Abbey with his family.

But this is of course the season that celebrates a man who proved that all you need to defeat evil, tyranny and injustice in the world is the spirit of goodwill and love to all men. I’m talking, of course, about Jeff Bridges, ‘The Dude’, born on December 4th. McClane channels the energy of the Big Lebowski to eventually vanquish Gruber by dropping him off the top of the building and ending Alan Rickman’s hopes for reappearing in Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard and For the Love of God Just Die Already.

So all that’s left for me to do is to give the traditional Christmas greeting of Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers! And Happy New Year, you sons-of-bitches.