Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard)
You know to this day I don't understand the name change. Granted, when the Die Hard 4.0 first came along I did think it was a bad name, but then as time progressed and I saw more clips, I actually started to like it, and compared to the non-UK title of Live Free or Die Hard, Die Hard 4.0 fits the film much better.
Name aside I'm not really sure what I was expecting when I went to see the film. The idea of Bruce Willis returning to the action genre, never mind the John McClane role, was something that you wouldn't even have considered before Hostage (Filmstalker review) came out, but it did, and it was a strong film, and Bruce Willis was back.
Then there was the thought of Len Wiseman directing, a man who has two Underworld films to his name and one Underworld prequel in the works. With a story from two writers who only really had Enemy of the State behind them as something recognisable and strong.
Finally the concern popped up about the rating it received which placed it around 13-15 on the rating lists of most countries. Now that's a Die Hard film, a film with swearing and violence, did this mean it was going to be too tamed down?
Was this really going to work out? Were we going to see a film comparable with the first and third films?
The short answer is yes. There you go, it is Die Hard and it is comparable with the others, but here are issues I found with the film, and mainly in the editing. Before I get to those though, let's have a quick run through for the story after a quick thank you to those that helped me with this review.
Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema are great supporters of Filmstalker, even when they're such a big chain and they entertain much larger sites than me. They continue to help me see the films I review here, and for that I am very grateful. Especially since they have free parking, cracking hot dogs, and shops galore right on their doorstep. That's always a negative thing as I find a quick trip to the Game pre-owned section far too tempting after a cinema trip. Anyway, onto the film review!
John McClane is now a senior Detective and has been called to transport a hacker called Matt Farrell, played by Justin Long, to the FBI. Why such a mundane task? Well the FBI computer systems went down for a few seconds and they discovered that they had been breached, so as standard procedure they turn to the hackers on their watch list.
Trouble is they are finding that they are turning up dead, and meanwhile cyber-attacks are spreading to other Government systems, and they aren't just going down for a few seconds, these are going down permanently. Soon the traffic controls are in chaos, train systems, air traffic control, and it seems to be escalating.
That's where McClane comes in. It seems he's picked up the only surviving hacker that the terrorist group have used in order to break into the Government systems, and he has to get him to safety. If only those dreaded terrorists weren't in the way.
Bruce Willis is pretty damn good as an older and wiser McClane. The character is still there in every way, the wisecracking has subsided slightly, and in its place is an older, world weary McClane that comes out every so often. There are still elements of the original character that we loved, but he's aged perfectly and Willis slips right back into the character so easily. The wise cracks are still there though, and he's damn funny with them too.
What is interesting is that the character is so toned down, and that directly affects the rating. The surprising thing is that there's next to no swearing, with the standard McClane catchphrase being cut right in half. What's more surprising is that for the most part it doesn't matter. Without the swearing there's no real difference, what is incredibly annoying though is seeing the characters lips say one thing and hear a completely different thing coming out.
A number of times you saw these poor voice over moments, obviously the film came out with much more than that PG-13 and they were told to go back and tone it back down, however it's not that distracting, just noticeable.
There are some other cuts that are noticeable throughout the film, and with hindsight some could probably be attributed to the lower rating. A few death scenes avoid their key moments and show a different perspective, something lighter and less, well deathy.
Some of the fight sequences also suffer from heavy cutting and the horrible extreme, shaky close-ups. One in particular is the fight between McClane and Mai Lihn, played by the beautiful Maggie Q. I couldn't really see what was going on during the fight, you just found your mind catching up when the fight took a pause. When someone was knocked to the ground you realised what had just happened and your brain caught up. It means you still know what's happening, but you're not really with the action.
This happened a few times, and not just during action sequences. There were a few moments where multiple fast cuts and close cropped shots started to annoy me and take me out of the film, for example a guy goes to use a phone - intense close up on the hand going over a couple of the buttons which are in view, guy uses keyboard - intense close up on fingers on the keys, and so on.
Again these weren't overly annoying, just noticeable, and they distract you from the film and the story for a few moments.
The film still manages to remain action packed though, and it is kept heavy and quite dark. The overall sense is of rising stakes and panic and uncertainty, so in these aspects the film is kept strong.
Those action sequences are fantastic to see on screen, I won't lie in that two are pushing the envelope towards being too much, and the final scene with the jet is verging on ludicrous, but McClane handles it with the usual off handed bravado afterwards that dismisses it quickly.
In fact the sequences leading up to the final stand off seem quite contrived and far too convenient, however it is easy to get past that, and the sudden leap into the final sequence, a sequence which is pretty strong in itself and has some well setup moments.
That can be said for most of the film up to the jet sequence. The action scenes are well thought through, the escalation of events in the storyline moves well, with the travelling of McClane and his hacker friend just part of the storyline and never seeming to be overly pushed.
In this Die Hard there isn't an idiotic law enforcement official to deal with, this is more of a straight fight between McClane and the baddies, and that works well. Here the law enforcement is tied up trying to deal with the problem and struggling through the over dependence on computer systems to catch up, while the old school style of McClane manages to stay ahead of them and the baddies.
There are some nice nods to the original series throughout the film, if you can catch them. My personal favourite was the arrival of an FBI Agent called Johnson.
The other actors are very good. Maggie Q is stunning, deadly, and provides a good supporting role, but I wished she had a little more involvement. Justin Long, Cliff Curtis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zeljko Ivanek are all good in their roles.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is strong and plays McClane's daughter well, moving from fear to defiant anger easily and pulling out those McClane traits, while Justin Long plays his role well, he's the geek who is experiencing most of the days events for the first time in his life, and he manages to capture that feeling quite easily.
However there was something with his character I just didn't understand. He seemed to be going on about his low blood sugar a lot and I thought that this was actually going to lead somewhere, so when he later finds a Snickers bar and goes right by it I realised it was nothing more than another whining moment.
To me there were a few moments and shots that promised a little trail off into something else but never came to fruition. There were a few shots of Zeljko Ivanek later on that made me think his character was going to be developed in a different direction. Yet again it never came to anything.
Now, onto the main sparring partner for McClane, Thomas Gabriel played by Timothy Olyphant, and I'll try and keep this simple. He was brilliant. He matched up to the other Die Hard baddies well, and while he was never at Hans level, he certainly was close. He's mean, vicious, evil, cunning, and he showed a wise cracking streak himself.
What I found interesting as well is that most of these baddies show some form of weakness or dumb moment where they do something so stupid that you'll find yourself wanting to shout at the screen. It's that moment where a baddie sets up some slow and time convoluted trap that will eventually kill the good guy, but before he leaves he explains his entire plan. There's no such moment here. This guy is ruthless and he's planned everything out, and when things go wrong he can improvise with deadly results.
Timothy Olyphant plays him perfectly, and looks every inch the evil man he's playing. However I'm not letting this performance sway my belief that he's just not right for Hitman.
I also feel I have to say something about the free runners, in this film they are done a great injustice at one point. For the first onscreen appearance of Cyril Raffaelli, the camera follows him in a single movement through a complicated jump and series of controlled falls down a building fire escape, and it looks spectacular, all the more so for the uncut and wider angled style of filming. We saw everything and felt like we were right with the runner.
However the second sequence we see him showing off his skills in is when he is sent to kill McClane. He begins at the bottom of a circular room with McClane on a walkway at the top shooting down. Raffaelli has to run around, leap through gaps, spin around pipes, allsorts of incredible stunts to get to the top. However with the extreme editing style I talked about before the audience lose most of it and both myself and my fellow viewer could not keep up with the action. We ended up with a few brief glimpses of the free runner and lots of fast cuts.
It's a real shame because some of the stunts looked spectacular, but we only managed a few glimpses, and frankly I have no idea how he made it all the way up that room.
So all these individual aspects aside, looking at the film as a whole you have to say that it is well worthy of being a Die Hard film. Willis is superb as an age aware McClane. Olyphant is a superb baddie, and the story around them is well written and the sequences very well conceived. It's an action packed and exciting film that has the McClane humour throughout. There are flaws with some of the filming style and editing, but they are totally forgivable as you are treated to an excellent ride. Even the two "almost too much" moments are acceptable, as by that point you're all the way into the Die Hard world again.
You know, I now think all that talk of a Die Hard IV isn't that crazy.
License to Wed
I'm not a fan of this film at all. It looks like stock jokes and situations galore, and I can't see anything funny in the trailer.
The Bourne Ultimatum
This was the newest trailer and it looked great for it. However after watching it on the small screen and thinking that perhaps they'd done away with the Bourne shaky cam, I can confirm that on the big screen it looks like its still there. Some of the action and fast paced cuts make it very hard to see what's happening. There's one scene where Bourne is fighting someone with a cloth tight between both his hands, on the small screen it looks like it could be a great sequence, on the big screen you lose the very skilled movements in a blur. Still, it looks a very strong film and a fitting end to the series.
What can you say? Every time I see this on the big screen I get a big grin on my face. No matter what the reviewers are saying about the film, I'm blinded by huge robots moving and fighting as though they were real. I'm in.
You know I didn't really like this when I first saw the trailer, I thought it wasn't that funny. Now though it has started to grow on me, and when I saw it here I was smiling at some of the barbs back and forth between characters. I might actually have a look at this film. Really.