Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #3

Re: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

It should be said that my English isn’t that good, so please excuse me for any mistakes. I discovered your website through a link from a Brazilian Catholic blog, and I find every once in a while a link to individual reviews or a quote from them on Brazilian blogs. You may even have other Brazilian readers that have already made contact.

I also have the first Die Hard as a personal favorite, and having finally watched the fourth one this week and reading your review, I wanted to share some opinions and information regarding them both. Something that I would like to bring to your attention that I haven’t seen you or anyone mentioning is that the fact that Die Hard and The Fugitive are among the best recent action movies doesn’t seem to be a coincidence: they have something in common, screenwriter Jeb Stuart.

I don’t think I consider Live Free as really superior to the other sequels. In it, Bruce Willis doesn’t even seem to be interpreting John McClane, but his character from Hostage, instead. Unlike you, I think that the fact that his wife went away irresponsibly downplays the good emotional plot of the first movie. The blueish, bleached standard modern cinematography also diverts from the colorful, alive Jan de Bont’s work in the first movie. Not to mention the really insipid music score, contrasted to the wonderful one from Michael Kamen. The production values doesn’t seem to be that good, either. The result is, in average, good, but should be much better.

On the other hand, I definitely agree with you about the fact that the girl who played his daughter was really good and think she was underused, and did a wonderful job reproducing various McClane’s traits. There was also a insightful comment on Barbara Nicolosi’s favorable blog post about the movie, mentioning the “clever swipes at the dime-store anarchism so many people flirt with,” which I think were an inspired part of the script and really score points for the movie.

I’m not sure I think that Live Free or Die Hard is necessarily a better film than Die Hard 2. (I do think it’s better than Die Hard 3, though I haven’t seen the latter recently enough to have a critical opinion.) But I think that Live Free benefits from the distance from the original film, which is now a historical icon, not just a recent hit. Perhaps I might put it this way: The first two sequels asked in effect “What happened next?” ; Live Free asks “Where are they now?” The answer to the first question is inevitably anticlimactic; the second question carries different expectations, and the answer, for me at least, is more satisfying.

Regarding Bonnie Bedelia’s character, I can’t say I’m happy that she’s no longer with John; their relationship is in a way at the heart of the first film, maybe the first two films, and I’m glad to see them reunited at the end of the original. But I can’t say it’s terribly surprising either. Imperfect people make flawed decisions, and divorce, alas, is an intractable fact of life in the posthuman West. The McClanes’ rapprochement at the end of the first film is gratifying, but based on that film alone, being brutally honest, I couldn’t give them better than fifty–fifty odds of making it in the long run. That’s the kind of thing you don’t like to think about during the happy ending, but it’s the real world.

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