I like the title Live Free or Die Hard insofar as it’s better than “Die Hard 4: Die Harderer” but it doesn’t have much to do with the movie which isn’t about personal liberty or anything, and as much as I hate the sound of Die Hard 4.0 (as it’s titled here), at least it alludes to the film’s cyberterrorist plot. But for a movie that advertised “an analog cop in a digital world” being the only hope when the country’s electronically controlled infrastructure is disabled, John McClane sure does rely a lot on his geeky charge to to do geeky stuff in between his physical heroics.
They, after all, are the point of an action movie, and this fourth Die Hard film delivers more than its expected share. The first time I saw the trailer I naturally went bonkers over the anti-chopper auto-projectile, but at the same time was disappointed that the money shot had been given away in the trailer. How could anything in the rest of the movie possibly be better?
I needn’t have worried. McClane kills the helicopter with his car by the end of the first act, and thereafter the movie somehow manages to top itself — more than once. Fans of the original will be glad to hear there is another elevator shaft scene, and this one is to end all elevator shaft scenes. By the time an F-35 shows up… heck, I didn’t even know there is such a thing as an F-35.
It admittedly feels different than the other Die Hard films, but that is mostly due to the pervasive blue saturation, no doubt an idiosyncrasy of Len Wiseman who also directed the Underworld movies. McClane himself also behaves somewhat differently than in his earlier adventures, but his abstinence from profanity seems due (besides box office considerations) to the maturing fatigue of age, as is his lack of the incessant smirk that was the second movie’s primary flaw. Somewhere along the line Bruce Willis learned not to purse his lips, and no longer looks deserving of a slap. But although Willis doesn’t reprise the role by simply mimicking his previous performances as he did in Die Hard 2, McClane’s personal habits of muttering to himself and trying to intimidate the villain by talking trash are still intact, even if he never lights up.
Storywise, the movie is an amalgam of the police escort plot of 16 Blocks and the hostage daughter plot of Hostage in the context of a terrorism plot worthy of 24 and sprinkled with a dash of parkour a la Casino Royale. But most importantly it doesn’t borrow the aesthetic of Bourne‘s hand-held camera, ensuring all the action can be appreciated. With its dark monochrome, DH4 isn’t as pretty as the gold and turquoise hues of Casino Royale, nor as good of a film, but it is more exciting and possibly even a better action movie (high praise from me). Moreover, Justin Long’s character isn’t as annoying as Mos Def’s 16 Blocks counterpart, and the geographically diverse plot works better than the silly scavenger hunt of Die Hard With a Vengeance. In other words, the best Die Hard movie since Die Hard. For a director’s third feature it is an impressive achievement.