Bruce Willis is just like Jennifer Aniston – both were in sitcoms but did art on the side. And yes, I just called Die Hard art. Yes, there are a few things that I appreciated from this crowd pleaser that played at the Bloor Cinema on December 15th. The print they played is obviously not a reprint, making the Los Angeles sky look reddish. And no, I’m not complaining.
Both Officer John McClane (Willis) and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) find themselves on opposite ends, Gruber trying to forcibly take $620 million in bonds from a Los Angeles branch of a Japanese company, John trying to stop him. They behave in this film and try to defeat each other like walking blindfolded, and this they make the best foils for each other.
Hans accuses John of the latter comparing himself to John Wayne and Rambo, but he’s performing too. This is probably just me putting 1988 in context with 2010, but is Hans loosely based on Carlos the Jackal? Kicked out from his terrorist group, has experience in Germany. Something always goes wrong with their plan, which only John’s wife Holly Gennaro McClane notices. Besides, what kind of terrorist owns a ‘John Philips’ suit? (p.s. I’ve never heard of this designer, I’m not familiar with London designers who weren’t CSM freaks. Anyway…)
He’s stealing from a corporation that’s trying to help infrastructure in the Third World. While making demands with the FBI, he tells them about random terrorist groups imprisoned around the world, including ones from Quebec, which got a rousing reaction from the Torontonian crowd. About an Asian group, Hans privately tells the right hand man that he’s heard of them on Time Magazine. When he faces John for the first time, he pretends to be an American.
Nonetheless John’s journey into this story’s more fascinating because well, it’s funnier. It’s hilarious to watch his face wince and repeat ‘Think,’ a sign of a man in panic. Besides, Bruce Willis probably knew how to say the lines better than the other actors whom the movie was offered to.
In the film’s first scenes, John tells the other characters how ‘he’s been a cop for eleven years’ or that he has a backlog of scumbags he has to put to jail. I suppose I’m being unfair, hinting that his bravado can’t possibly prepare him for what’s to come. However a) no one knows how to prepare for terrorism and b) even he knows that his victory against them would be miraculous, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Another condition to his challenge is that he begins it by simply wearing a wife-beater and is barefoot. A constant variable in his process is various stages of undress, while a less constant variable are the weapons he gains and loses throughout his exciting mess. He’s practically a video game protagonist.
He actually does something interesting in the beginning – he escapes, retreats and tries to spy on the terrorists. He bungles up a few things while he’s away from all the action, yet despite the accusations Hans throws at him, his invisibility is the opposite of performance. He makes sure he’s away until he has to inevitably meet the villains.
The film is also well thought out in a technical sense, as Mark Hasan writes here. There are also the showcasing of heights – ‘I swear I’ll never be in a tall building again.’ – the most real explosions in film I’ve seen in recent memory, non-CGI helicopters flying around a real city which will never happen in a movie again…
Of course, John flies all the way to Los Angeles is to meet his wife and hopeful resolve issues about their marriage and her career. She’s not the only woman there, but she’s second in command. I was ready to roll my eyes in what I thought the ending was gonna be. ‘You’re so hot and shirtless John McClane. I’m going to give up my career and cook bacon and eggs in a sexy French maid outfit for you. Take me!’ Which is exactly what I would do if Bruce Willis married me, mind you. Anyway, I thought I was going to be right because eventually John, in trying to rescue the hostages that include Holly, unintentionally contributes in the destruction of her workplace. Holly has two obvious choices now, move to New York with him and finding a job will be difficult because her references are dead. Or stay in Los Angeles and ride the publicity train. The two don’t talk about it, grateful just for being alive. If it’s any consolation, she’s very assertive in trying to protect her boss and coworkers. She gets to call Hans out as a thief, and Holly’s the character who makes the film’s last act of aggression.
It’s really hard to talk about movies I love. Since I was under the academic wing, movie writing is especially difficult with examples that have a lot of comic relief. I would be talking about a pimp describing “a coked up whore (not Madeleine Stowe) and a fucking crazy dentist (not Bruce Willis)” instead of dystopia.
And dystopia’s pretty much what the movie’s about – the world is shit both in the 1990’s and in the mid 21st century. We see a grungy mental institution with overconfident psychiatrists and contrasted against a group of scientists who cannot even get the poor man to travel in time properly. The 1990’s attitude is when psychiatry and labeling people like James Cole as crazy is the norm instead of helping him as the prophet that he is. The 21st century, however, does not want to overdo themselves by changing the future but instead want to learn from it. The future scientists also get closer to their mark in all their attempts to solve their historical puzzle.
I also love how “Twelve Monkeys” is the closest well-resulting thing we can have of a Vertigo remake without it being too literal and therefore terrible. At one point, I even felt like this film is better than Vertigo. Like the Hitchcock film, one person contracts the crazy just as the other tries to wean himself off it. Both use insanity as a metaphor for love and vice versa, as the protagonists want to live in a perfect world and want to share that with someone. It’s this dream and mismatched love tragedy that makes us come back for more. And I’m not the biggest fan of Vertigo and writing that makes me wanna watch it again to see if I love the whole as much as I love the parts.
I also watched “If” and “Elephant,” and tried to put three movies in some umbrella post of violence, but it ain’t gonna work. I will talk about the two movies mentioned in this paragraph in a later post.