Joe, alone, against
terrorists on Christmas Day.
Pages of darkness.
Like a lot of people, Die Hard is one of my favorite action films. Each entry in the franchise has gotten worse, but nothing can take away from the brilliance of the original. It’s been a while since I saw it, but I was curious to watch it again because I just finished the novel from which it is based.
I can’t recall how I was led to the novel, but I was intrigued when folks who have read it said it was both the same and different, in all the right ways. It’s a slim book, bare over 200 pages, easily readable in a single sitting. It took me about six sittings, but that’s because I’m just a slow reader.
If you are a fan of the movie, you will like a lot of what’s in this book (originally titled Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorpe — what a cool name!). So much of what John McClane goes through (Joe Leland in the novel, and he’s much older here, I believe in his late fifties) — barefoot on the broken glass, C4 down the elevator shaft, pistol sneakily strapped to his back — are in the novel. And yet at the same time, so much of it is not there, and I don’t just mean plot mechanics or dropped scenes. The book is way darker, and because it is told in a limited third person from Joe’s point of view, we are left with a work that spends much of its time inside his head. So as action filled as this novel is, it’s also intensely introspective. There’s also a greater sense of moral ambiguity, as the purpose behind the skyscraper takeover is as black and white as it is in the movie.
Seeing Die Hard again after all these years (I can’t remember seeing the film in its entirety in at least ten years) was a study in nostalgia. Smoking inside the airport! Car phones! Cocaine! One aspect I noticed this time was the omnipresent soundtrack — it’s a bit too pervasive and felt dated. Was Alan Rickman supposed to be German or English? His accent was kind of all over the place. But these are niggling complaints. The movie holds up in every way — well, maybe except for the ending (do I need to do a spoiler alert here?), when Karl returns from the seeming dead with guns blazing. The novel handles this in a much more logical manner.