Release year: 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Screenwriter: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza, Roderick Thorp (novel)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginal VelJohnson, William Atherton, Hart Bochner, Paul Gleason
Ratings: 4 Oscar nominations: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects, Best Visual Effects.
When John McClane (Bruce Willis) goes to his wife Holly’s (Bonnie Bedelia) workplace to surprise her, he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation.
This modern action classic is the movie that truly put Willis (RED 2010) on the Hollywood map. Though the movie itself is a brilliant piece of work, it is first and foremost his wisecracking and very real everyday hero who makes this movie unforgettable. Though the situation is extreme, the challenges McClane is put up against seems surprisingly realistic, helped by the fact that Willis is not just extremely likeable, but also appears tough enough to handle it. Bedelia (Needful Things 1993) is underused compared to her male co-lead, but the scenes we do see her in, shows a strong character and a suitable match to the macho McClane. Rickman (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001, here in his feature film debut) has created perhaps one of the best movie villains ever with his menacing Hans Gruber, complete with typical foreign accent (chosen scapegoat here: Germans) and a group of henchman suiting their part. The chemistry between Willis and Rickman is amazing and especially Willis shows strong potential as the action hero he later became. The movie starts with a nice slow build-up, rarely seen in todays action movies, giving us time to connect with McClane, making us feel that more for him, when he struggles to survive. Willis’s acting keeps you captivated throughout, feeling his pain and cheering him on. I doubt “Yippee ki yay, motherfucker” would have become as famous a catchfrace if spoken by someone less charismatic than Willis or if the movie would have been as succesful with someone less able to capture that certain mixture of toughness and human vulnerability. In the hands of Willis, McClane has become a reluctant everyday hero and an iconic character beloved by many, adding to the popularity and longevity of an excellent movie that otherwise could have risked fading into oblivity. No way that is going to happen with Bruce Willis’s John McClane present to take a stand against the evil of the world. Yipee ki yay, motherfucker indeed!
The headquarters of 20th Century Fox was used as the Nakatomi Tower. The company charged itself rent for the use of the building which at the time was still unfinished.
Picture copyright: SF Films