I'm a huge fan of the original Die Hard movie. It's definitely the best one in the franchise. Hell, it's one of the best action films ever made! Director Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Iron Giant, The Incredibles) recently talked to Rolling Stone, and discussed the brilliance of director John McTiernan's Die Hard.
Bruce Willis' John McClane is in the tradition of Sean Connery as James Bond and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones – a hero who shows fear. He's a guy who is continually petrified by what's happening to him, but that doesn't keep him from pushing through it. And instead of making the hero smaller for the audience, it makes him larger – because we recognize the fear. Alan Rickman was a fantastic villain, too.
John McTiernan's direction is an amazing piece of intricate craftsmanship. What a lot of filmmakers have trouble communicating is a sense of geography. For instance, one floor of a building under construction looks a lot like any other floor. But McTiernan put in little things, like a Playboy centerfold hung up by a construction worker. At first it seems like a visual joke, but it's really there to identify that floor, so when Willis encounters it again, the audience knows exactly where he is. Many directors also shoot action very sloppily – they shoot up close and cut around a lot and put in all these big noises to distract you. But in Die Hard, you know where every character is every second of the movie. Things are going by at a fast clip, but you're never lost.
Most action movies have great sequences, but they aren't great movies. Die Hard starts great and just stays at that level from beginning to end.
He really makes some great points here. If you think about it, Die Hard is really just one long action sequence that never really lets up on the suspense. I guess it's time for me to watch it again.