Live Free or Die Hard
reviewed by Enrico Banson
The fourth installment in this unexpectedly resurrected franchise is welcoming and uncomfortable all at the same time mainly due to the film’s subject matter and plot. The film is based on an eerie Wired Magazine article by John Carlin titled “Farewell to Arms” explaining how our society’s increasing dependency on technology and computers only makes us more vulnerable to attacks on the system by techno-terrorists. We can be sent back to the Stone Age by having bad guys infiltrating our networks and selling our information—from our finances, social security, or worse, mess up our transportation systems and shut down our natural resources. Most techno-thrillers today deal with computers as part of the plot, yet here it feels frighteningly real and relevant.
The upside to this is that McClane relishes in being out of sync with technology—“a Timex watch in the digital age”—and that the only way to survive a crisis like this is to do things the old-fashioned way. Well, at least to McClane. We’re reintroduced to him as a frustrated geezer who follows his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) around on her dates. She’s so embarrassed by him that she’s changed her last name and avoids speaking to him at all costs. Soon after, he receives his latest orders—to pick up a young hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long) as part of a sweep to find out who and why someone has hacked into the government’s system. Well the real hackers want Farrell dead. Lucky for Farrell to have McClane as his protector.
What makes the movie work is Bruce. He seems a bit more fired up and completely invested in the character, unlike his recent performances of late. Here he’s reliably witty and commanding, rolling with the punches and having a good time. Also, the relationship that forms between the antiquated McClane and his techno-savvy youngster companion Farrell make for a good odd couple. Mac commercial guy Justin Long is refreshing as the geeky Farrell, a role that could have been annoying if miscast. As a matter of fact, the casting by Deborah Aquila and Tricia Wood is inspired. All the roles are multicultural, varied and are perfect for the actors that play them. New Zealander Cliff Curtis, who’s always reduced to playing Middle Eastern terrorists, gets to play on the other side of the law as the FBI honcho. Mission: Impossible 3’s Maggie Q gets to show an evil side and give Michelle Yeoh some competition. Kevin Smith even pops up as a trusty hacker with a Star Wars fetish. Perhaps it’s Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant that seems a bit misplaced as the evil genius. All the villains in the Die Hard franchise are brainy, finicky types and Olyphant seems a bit too rugged for the role, even though his character’s background is intriguing.
Sticking to your guns the old-fashioned way is truly what’s at the film’s core. Just like in the original films, John McClane is still just an average guy. It’s hard to believe throughout the film as he dodges millions of bullets from semi-automatics and jumping off F35 jets. He’s got a cleaner mouth, perhaps because of age, or the PG-13 rating (unlike the R rating for the first three). And perhaps now he’s virtually indestructible. But you learn to forgive all that with a guy who isn’t afraid to wreck havoc because “he ran out of bullets.” It’s a wonderful return for a great character, especially an action hero with wit and brawns all rolled into one.
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