Say the name Bruce Willis and what is the first thing that comes to mind? Lately Willis has excelled in roles that have redefined him as an actor. Of course, I’m talking about films like “The Sixth Sense”. But when I hear Bruce Willis I think of John McClane. Die Hard was the film where Willis “made his bones” in Hollywood and revolutionized the action film forever.
John McClane just can’t catch a break. It seems his wife has moved from their home in New York City, where John’s a cop, to L.A. to take a job with the Nokotomi Corporation. McClane plans a visit to his wife for Christmas, but when he gets there he finds out she’s been using her maiden name; and oh yeah, apparently terrorists have taken over the nearly completed skyscraper.
McClane roams the ventilation and elevator shafts of the building trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. His only ally is an unlikely street cop whom he only knows as a voice on a stolen walkie talkie. The feds want him out of their way, the bad guys just want him dead, and he’s not sure his wife wants him at all. McClane manages to take down the bad guys, who are really just common thieves, and almost takes the building down with them.
This Five Star Collection release sports a snappy DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and French Dolby Surround Sound. The DTS track is superb most notably during the films many explosions and machinegun fights. The score is brilliant at times. The Dialogue is well placed although at times buried in the DD track. The only flaw I could find was a slight hiss in the DD track in a few quiet moments. They’re hard to locate and will not be noticed by many.
If you remember the film was made in 1988 the video is as good as it gets. It is presented in the original aspect ratio 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format. The occasional grain in the film is from the source material and not any flaw in the transfer. Much of the film takes place in dark environments and the black is very deep and true. There is rich color detail once again most noticeable in the vivid explosions.
Die Hard is a 2-disc collection with most of the features on the 2nd disc. The first disc is a single-sided dual layer disc containing the film and commentary tracks. The main commentary track is presented by director John McTiernan and Production designer Jackson DeGovia. It is typical and provides insight into many of the film’s elements. I only wish they had been recorded together for interplay between them. There is a secondary track by special effects supervisor Richard Edlund. This track is scene specific and will appeal mostly to techies. There is also a text commentary by many cast and crew but I found it distracting. Also of the first disc is an interesting feature that allows you to “branch out” and see more of the scene where the building’s lights are terminated. It was cool at first but didn’t age well with me.
The 2nd disc is by far one of the most innovative collections of extras to appear in any DVD release. Here finally the promise of DVD’s potential we’ve all been hearing about comes to life. The Cutting Room allows you to select certain scenes from the film and edit them. You get to select camera angles and lenses, mix audio and play back your customized scene. I tried it and it gave me a great appreciation for the professional film editors.
Other extras include a montage of gags, outtakes, and deleted scenes; a slide show of production stills, complete versions of the film’s newscasts, trailers, TV spots, film script, and featurette with many of the cast members. Of course there are DVD Rom extras but they’re mostly the usual games and web links.
Finally the disc includes a primer on the reason films are shown in widescreen. This is great for any of you who keep trying to explain to the uninitiated why they want those black bars on the top and bottom. It’s a great demonstration for all the nonbelievers out there.
If you haven’t seen this Die Hard DVD you haven’t seen Die Hard at home. I have the old Laser Disc release and was very impressed at the time. But this DVD is the stuff. After watching this version of Die Hard all I can say is “Yippie-Kai-Yay”.