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Live Free or Die Hard(2007)
On the July 4th holiday, an attack on the vulnerable United States infrastructure begins to shut down the entire nation. The mysterious figure behind the scheme has figured out every modern angle — but he never figured on an old-analog fly, John McClane, in the digital ointment. It's the beginning of the holiday, but New York City detective McClane isn't celebrating. He's had yet another argument with his college-age daughter Lucy, and received a crushingly routine assignment to bring in a young hacker, Matt Farrell, for questioning by the FBI. But for McClane, the ordinary has a habit of exploding into the extraordinary — abruptly hurtling him into the wrong place at the wrong time. With Farrell's help, McClane slowly begins to understand the increasing chaos surrounding him. An attack is underway on the vulnerable United States infrastructure, shutting down the entire nation. The mysterious figure behind the scheme, Thomas Gabriel, stays several moves ahead of McClane as he implements his incredible plans, known to uber-geeks like Farrell as a "fire sale" (as in, everything must go!).
For more about Live Free or Die Hard and the Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray release, see Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray Review published by PeteR on November 27, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith (I)
Director: Len Wiseman (I)
» See full cast & crew
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray Review
"John...you're a Timex watch in a digital age." - Thomas Gabriel
Reviewed by PeteR, November 27, 2007
Computer hacker Matthew Farrell (Justin Long) and several others electronically deliver programs to a mysterious woman and her colleagues. After delivery the hackers are violently "deactivated" one by one. The woman, Mai Linh (Maggie Q), informs her boss that they are ready to begin. In the FBI Cyber-Security Division computer monitors flicker and go dark momentarily. Assistant Director Miguel Bowman (Cliff Curtis) demands that his agency interview anyone capable of breaching their system. When informed that the department is understaffed to handle such a massive undertaking, Bowman orders his staff to have local law enforcement agencies assist.
At Rutgers State University in New Jersey, New York Police Lieutenant Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) interrupts his daughter Lucy's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) date much to her displeasure. After she storms off, McClane gets a call from his supervisor informing him that he has been assigned to take Farrell, who is in Camden, to the Hoover Building in Washington D.C. Naturally, Farrell is reluctant to go, but the five gunmen who show up to "deactivate" him convince the hacker to accompany McClane to Washington.
McClane and Farrell arrive in the capital as Lin and head conspirator Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) begin their three stage plan to disable the country's infrastructure and bring the United States to its knees. Farrell realizes what kind of attack is in progress and tries to warn Bowman. Skeptical, Bowman directs McClane to escort Farrell to the location where they are interviewing the other hackers brought in. McClane and Farrell are ambushed en route and barely survive. Afterwards, Farrell tells McClane that the terrorists will try to take out the power grid. Isolated and without backup, John McClane realizes that it's up to him to stop the terrorists and once again save the day.
It's been 12 years since we've seen John McClane in action (Die Hard with a Vengeance). I was initially skeptical how Live Free or Die Hard would play in today's more savvy and cynical age where action films are getting more and more ridiculous in an attempt to outdo each other. But much like the new re-imagined James Bond franchise, director Len Wiseman (Underworld) has scaled back the most of the ridiculousness and crafted a very good film. Unlike the previous two films in the series (and especially Die Hard 2: Die Harder), there aren't too many moments where your suspension of disbelief is stretched to the breaking point. Being somewhat computer astute myself there were times when I rolled my eyes at what the hackers were doing...but it wasn't to the point where I felt my intelligence was being insulted. It probably won't bother the average viewer in the slightest. The only over the top sequence for me was the jet attack sequence towards the end of the film, fortunately it doesn't derail the movie. Wiseman tries to stay true to the spirit of the first film: an everyman who is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, Wiseman and screenwriter Mark Bomback (with a polish by executive producer and Terminator 2: Judgment Day co- writer William Wisher) have McClane stuck in a world where he's totally lost and defenseless: technology. Fortunately he has Justin Long's Matthew Farrell to help him (and the audience) through this high tech maze. The film itself is adapted from a 1997 Wired magazine article "A Farewell To Arms". Willis and Long have pretty good chemistry and I enjoyed their repartee. The other cast members are good as well, especially Maggie Q, who's Mai proves she isn't there just for eye candy. Timothy Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel is believable as a man who can kill with a keyboard as easily as he can with a gun. I also have to mention Kevin Smith, who's Warlock character has the burden of explaining to McClane (and the viewer) the motivations of Gabriel and his group: Smith does so with great humor, making potentially boring exposition very entertaining. As Lucy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is truly the offspring of John McClane and Holly Gennero (played by Bonnie Bedelia in Die Hard 1 & 2). She's not quite the damsel in distress some would expect her to be.
Much has been made about the film's PG-13 rating, and having seen the "Unrated" cut on DVD I can say that it's not really an issue here. With the exception of some squib hits and a lot of f-bombs, there isn't too much of a difference between the two versions. All the action is still there. It's regrettable that Fox did not include both versions here, but at the minimum we are getting what was seen at the cinema.
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray, Video Quality
Live Free or Die Hard is presented in 1080p and encoded in MPEG4 AVC. Another day and date home run for Fox, the image is terrific. Colors are well saturated, grain is natural, and the picture is free of noise and artifacts. The film has that HD depth and detail we've come to expect from the Blu-ray format. As a movie, it looks VERY different from the ones that preceded it. Besides being made 10-15 years after the others, Wiseman shot in Super35 (rather than anamorphic Panavision), and the film was immediately transferred to digital format and color graded/corrected via computer. Wiseman admits to being a fan of the Terminator films (he says so in the commentary) and it shares the same gray-blue highlights of those movies in the majority of the night and interior scenes. This BD reproduces the look exactly as intended by the director.
A good example is right near the beginning when McClane goes to pick up Farrell from his apartment in Camden. Even in the low light you can make out a wealth of detail in the room on various toys, action figures, and the ratty furniture. The scratches and unpainted walls, even the names of the icons on Farrell's computer monitor (apparently Farrell was able to build his own custom Macintosh), are easy to spot. Of course there's Bruce Willis' weathered visage as well. Every wrinkle, cut, and bit of stubble is there to see. As Indiana Jones might say: it's not the years, it's the mileage.
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film is encoded in Fox's usual 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Before I could not take advantage of the lossless track, but recent upgrades have rendered this moot. What an introduction! Wiseman loves surround sound : his Underworld films have the reputation of being some of the most active and powerful soundtracks out there and this movie is no different. Even toned down for the PG-13 rating, it's still a hard hitting and dynamic soundtrack. From the quiet whirr of hard drives to the slam of an exploding helicopter, this will give the hardiest of surround systems a workout.
A prime demo sequence is the scene where McClane and Farrell attempt to escape a helicopter firing at their police squad car. It starts off quietly with McClane and Gabriel trading insults via radio. When they reach an intersection all hell breaks loose. Bullets rip through all the speakers as both the car and aircraft swerve from channel to channel. Every hit, glass break, and metal crunch sounds absolutely real. Five out of five.
The film is also encoded in English, Spanish, and French Dolby Digital (DD) 5.1 @ 448 kbps. Once again, I appreciate Fox including the 5.1 DD track, this is not a soundtrack can listen to at night full range without waking the neighborhood. DD allows for dynamic range control and relatively decent playback on lower-end systems.
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fox provides Live Free or Die Hard with the full suite of extras from the 2 disc DVD Special Edition, along with a Java game and D-BOX support. All the extras are encoded in MPEG2, with the majority in standard definition. With the disc clocking in at over 42GB, it's understandable why they aren't presented in HD. The feature film's video and sound are the priority here. The disc also contains the trailers for The Simpsons Movie and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but are only accessible when you first insert the disc. Viewer advisory: While the film itself is PG-13, the language in extras is uncensored.
Commentary by Bruce Willis, Director Len Wiseman, and Editor Nicholas De Toth (feature length, DD 2.0 @ 224 kbps): Willis, Wiseman and De Toth discuss the creation of the film, revising the script, and what differences there are between the PG-13 and unrated versions. Wiseman was always a big fan of the first film, and reveals that he made his own version in his family's backyard as a youngster. Too bad they couldn't locate the camcorder footage from that! Willis' is open and he discusses his contributions to the script, the other films, and even entertains the idea of further films in the future. De Toth is more behind the scenes, explaining the nuts and bolts of the film and what it took to create the version ultimately seen theatrically.
Black Hat Intercept Game: Java based game, with intro by Kevin Smith. The goal is to penetrate several levels of a facility before terrorists can unleash a computer virus. More arcade like than some of the previous Fox games, which makes it somewhat difficult to play via the remote. For the curious.
Analog Hero in a Digital World: The Making of Live Free or Die Hard (1:37:15): Complete documentary on the making of the film: everything from cast and crew interviews to stunts to visual effects to even the digital intermediate process. Can be viewed complete or in chapters. A must see.
Yippee Ki Yay, Motherf***** (0:22:40, 480p 16x9, DD 2.0 @ 224kbps): Kevin Smith interviews Bruce Willis on the Fox lot. Willis is candid and open about his thoughts on his career and the Die Hard series. Smith and Willis have a good rapport. Definitely worth watching.
Die Hard by Guyz Nite (0:04:31, 480i 4x3, DD 2.0 @ 224kbps): A sensation on You Tube, Guyz Nite is a small New York band that made a catchy song last year about the first 3 films and posted the video online. They initially were stopped by Fox for violating copyright, but later Fox realized that the attention the video got could be used to market the Live Free or Die Hard, and not only allowed the band to re- release the video, but add a verse and clips for the new film. NOTE: there appears to be an encoding issue with the video: terrible combing and interlacing artifacts throughout.
Behind the scenes with Guyz Nite (0:05:48, 480p 16x9, DD 2.0 @ 224kbps): Still not sure if they're for real or not, a humorous interview with the band with some samples of their music (they refer to the Die Hard films as documentaries). Worth a look.
Theatrical Trailer (0:02:14, 1080p 16x9, DD 5.1 @ 448kbps): OAR original trailer.
FOX on Blu-ray (0:06:45, 1080p 16x9): Teaser trailers for Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard With A Vengeance presented in DD 2.0 @ 224kbps, and the full trailer for The Siege in DD 5.1 @ 448 kbps. Fairly beat up, and the teasers for the first 2 films almost seem like parodies today. Interestingly enough, The Siege has not yet been formally announced as of this writing, so I guess it's coming soon.
FOX MOVIE CHANNEL presents FOX LEGACY (0:06:19, 480p 4x3, DD 2.0 @ 224kbps): Promotional short produced by Fox Movie Channel, hosted by Tom Rothman. Rothman discusses the Die Hard as a franchise and gives some behind the scenes information on the creation of the first film.
Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fox has put together a very good package for Live Free or Die Hard. An excellent video transfer, even better lossless audio, and a robust amount of supplements make it a good value. The only thing missing is the seamless-branching of the unrated version offered on DVD. Even without that, the film is still hard hitting and well done. Willis and Wiseman prove that there's still some mileage left in John McClane after all these years. Well worth the purchase.
Live Free or Die Hard: Other Editions
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Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fox Specs Die Hard and Fantastic Four - August 30, 2007
Fox Home Entertainment has released the official specs for 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer', 'Live Free or Die Hard' (Unrated), and 'Diehard Trilogy' Blu-ray releases. 'Fantastic Four' will get AVC 1080p video and DTS-HD MA audio on a BD-50, and is set ...
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