Bruce Willis stars as New York City detective John McClane, newly arrived in Los Angeles to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged wife. But as McClane waits for his wife's office party to break up, terrorists take control of the building. While the terrorist leader, Hans Gruber rounds up hostages, McClane slips away unnoticed. Armed with only a service revolver and his cunning, McClane launches his own one-man war. A crackling thriller from beginning to end, Die Hard explodes with hear-stopping suspense.
For more about Die Hard and the Die Hard Blu-ray release, see Die Hard Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on February 15, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
One of the oft-repeated yarns about Blu-ray is that older movies don't benefit
much from 1080p production. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Fox's Blu-ray version of
Die Hard proves it. Available both as a single disc release and as disc one in the Die Hard
Collection set, the film that introduced the world to John McClane (Bruce Willis) may not win any video or
audio awards, but the picture and sound are dramatically improved over previous versions. Like
every classic action film, Die Hard delivers a diabolical villian in Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a hero
that defines his time in McClane and a trademark line--yipee-ki-yay,
mother f-----. It's an action-packed, unapologetic portrayal of a true-blue American everyman
kicking ass against a dozen heavily armed Europeans, while taking figurative
aim at corporate lackeys, women who choose careers over men and clueless federal agents. Sound
fun? It is!
Hiding in an air duct to escape heavily armed Euro criminals, John McClane (Bruce Willis) wonders
how he gets himself in these situations.
The film starts as McClane lands in Los Angeles where his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) has moved
to capitalize on a career opportunity. When she moved from New York, she took McClane's young
kids with her. An old-fashioned New York cop, McClane is slow to accept that his wife's career may
be more important than his own. But he's starting to get the picture as a limousine picks him up
at the airport to take him to the luxury high-rise office building where Holly's company is holding
a Christmas party. He quickly learns that his wife has started using her maiden name and his
plans for reconciliation take a back seat to his feelings that Holly is drifting away. But before the
reunited couple can catch up together, a team of terrorists storm the building and take
everyone hostage. Everyone, that is, except McClane who slips away
unseen when he hears gunshots.
After witnessing the terrorist leader, Gruber, assassinate Holly's boss, McClane goes into vigilante
mode. He singlehandedly takes out one Eurobrute after another--mostly by using his wits and
fists. In the process, McClane involves the LAPD, who in turn call in the Feds. With the agents
outside proving more helpful to the criminals than the hostages, McClane must figure out how to
outwit Gruber and company himself. He starts to unravel their plans, leading to adrenaline-
infused fights and explosions. Always playing the unappreciated, invisible hero, Willis' McClane
pitting raw energy and common sense against the sophisticated plans, brute strength and superior weaponry of his
enemies. But can he outwit Gruber, save the hostages and rescue his marriage with Holly?
With an MPEG-4 encode and an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, Die Hard delivers high-quality 1080p on
BD. The definition is by no means reference quality; however, the resolution is an enormous step
from the NTSC versions we have all been watching for the past 20 years, on DVD or when the
networks invariably show Die Hard around Christmas. Textures on clothing and highlights or
on skin tones is especially improved compared to DVD versions. The definition is so much better
some of the makeup and blood is revealed to have a fake appearance. Maybe the producer should
have spent more money on fake blood and less on the explosions, which appeared to be very
A major achievement for this BD release is that it shows depth of picture. The relatively few
outdoor shots are
a good indicator of how the picture benefits from transfer to 1080p resolution. Of course the
shots deliver the front-to-back definition of scenes involving people or objects that appear close in
foreground, giving way to a long distance view in the background. Although it is a special effect,
nowhere is this near versus far definition shown better than when Gruber is hanging out of a
window, 32 stories above the ground. The parking lot, street lights and landscaping below, while
soft, have much stronger resolution than NTSC versions. And Gruber's facial expression and dark
suit mark the fantastic definition of the Blu-ray.
resolution, black level and contrast presented in this Blu-ray disc.
As one would expect from Fox, Die Hard is encoded in lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Our
earlier review of the Die Hard
Collection set pointed out that the first film originally played in Dolby Stereo (Dolby
Surround) with some 4.1 70 mm showings at select theaters. That review stated, "the film has
been remixed into 5.1 and the results are just fair. Dialogue is clear for the
most part, but there are scenes where the soundtrack sounds unnaturally harsh and bright,
can be torture for the ears since there's a LOT of breaking glass. Those of you with Re-Eq on their
surround processors will definitely want to engage it. Bass response is also somewhat lacking, the
scenes with explosions lack the punch you'd expect, even when considering the film's age.
surround envelopment is decent."
Different systems yield different results, and while this reviewer agrees that the mix is bright and
forward, it works. The brightness delivers a more immediate visceral response and breaking glass
should sound harsh. When cacophonous sounds appear euphonious, then it's time to worry, but
that's not the case here. The bass and explosions are somewhat shelved, but overall, the audio is
more than adequate, delivers a seemless surround field and lacks distortion. The roof explosion and earlier explosion caused by McClane arming a
chair with C4 explosives and pushing it down an elevator shaft both sound convincing at high levels,
with significant LFE content. It is not the greatest sound definition, but it is surprisingly enjoyable
companion to the picture. As pointed out in the previous review, the film has an additional
English soundtrack encoded in DD 2.0 surround at 224 kbps, and also
includes tracks in DD 5.1 at 448 kbps in French and Spanish.
Most Fox Blu-ray discs include all the supplementary material of the DVD versions ported over to BD. Unfortunately, Die Hard is the only exception, with very little in the way of featurettes. The video of this bonus material is encoded in MPEG4 AVC at 480i/p (standard defintion), with audio in DD 2.0 stereo at 224 kbps, which is the quality that should be expected in extras ported over from DVD. They include the following:
Commentary by Director John McTiernan and Jackson De Govia (feature length)
Scene Specific Commentary by Richard Edlund (visual effects supervisor)
The Newscasts (7:59): Newscasts as seen in the film, presented in full 16x9. Also contains some bloopers and outtakes not seen in the film. Note that the picture is in poor, even for NTSC.
Interactive Still Gallery (9:27): Slide show of props, models and on-set photos. Interactive Nakatomi logos take you to additional outtakes, blueprints, and designs.
Trailers and TV Spots: Includes three theatrical trailers and seven TV spots, some of which give away the ending. Again, the video quality is very poor.
The success of Die Hard lies in the appeal of John McClane. Where other action heros of the era seem untouchable, like James Bond; superhuman, like Batman; aloof, like Harry Callahan or John Rambo; or simply nuts, like Martin Riggs, McClane seems like an old buddy you can invite over for a bar-b-que. Part of his appeal lies in his frequent complaints about being unappreciated. Anyone who has gone beyond the call of duty and not been recognized can relate. But by underplaying the role, Willis instills in McClane a set of values wherein he's not looking to be rewarded. He just wants to have a peaceful, relaxing Christmas and hopefully rekindle his marriage. And look. A whole team of terrorists ruined it for him.
The plot setup, to base an action movie full of violence, explosions and death on a man just trying to reunite his family, is brilliant. Even your mother will like it, no matter how much she frowns upon violence. Of course, the success of Die Hard kicked off one of the most successful franchizes in film history, with Live Free or Die Hard proving a hit at the box office last summer. But fans agree that none of the sequels lived up to the rush of the flagship film. It's an easy recommendation on Blu-ray.
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