Die Hard

Practically a musical, McTiernan, Urioste, Kamen so in tune that it becomes a choreography of formalized emotion and adrenal thrills. The wealth in observation can distract one in multiple interpretive directions -- husband fighting for wife after losing his supremacy in the family, in the ultimate (constantly exploding) phallus; overtures to the fabled end of history: emissaries of multiple continents meeting in one space spliced together from Western modernism and Eastern minimalism, fighting over a vault of bearer bonds, Asian artifacts, and French painting -- but McTiernan's background "hum" of Shakespearean comedy wins out. "Princes become asses, asses become princes." His camera is generous: we see Willis formulate thought, we feel Bedelia's anxious but strong emotional resolve, we share Rickman's childlike glee. Pans, dollies, axial cuts.

In interviews, McTiernan frequently comes back to the (amusingly specific and consistent) idea of a "visual Beethoven" lingering somewhere in the future, in whom the powers of filmmaking are so realized that text-based justifications are no longer required. I hope, somewhere inside, he knows how close he came to this at his best. How else to describe one of his films in full flight, when the pure pleasure of motion and rhythm raise one into some of the most joyous feelings of freedom you'll find in cinema. No wonder he always seems to have sympathy for master thieves, no wonder the ebullience of The Thomas Crown Affair when one finally gets to win: his pleasure is the moment stolen from rationality, the suggestion of floating above the world, of release, of mastery of space. Their anxieties? To be trapped, to be traced, to be contained within lines. Die Hard is a dance, a pas de deux between rich man and poor man, good and bad, claustrophobia and open air. It is a gesture of love to the Night, to action, and all to transformative possibilities they contain.

"It's Christmas, Theo, it's the time of miracles."