Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Movie Project -- Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
As John McClane waits for his wife to land at Dulles Airport, right-wing terrorists take over the airport's electronic communications and demand the release of an imprisoned Latin American dictator on his way to Dulles.

Memorable Quote:
Yippee-ki-yay, mother@#$%$.  ~McClane

The ending is brilliant. McClane is no match for Colonel Stuart's martial arts, and Stuart knocks him off the plane wing as he pulls the handle on the fuel dump. As the plane takes off and the bad guys are celebrating on board, McClane is lying in the snow and it seems that all hope is lost. Then, he casually pulls out a lighter and drops the flame onto the gas trail, and the flame catches up to the plane and creates a giant exploding fireball.

It's unclear why the planes circling overhead couldn't just go to BWI, Reagan, or another nearby airport.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The scene where McClane climbs the ladder from the service tunnels up onto the runway and then nearly gets run over by Esperanza's plane was filmed from eight different locations: Granada Hills, California; Los Angeles, California; Mojave Desert, California; Alpena, Michigan; San Francisco, California; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; Lake Tahoe, California; Denver, Colorado. 

I find it interesting to see how much work it was to film this one scene, and it makes me appreciate movies from this era. If they were making the scene today, they'd just CGI it and it would look much worse.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • William Sadler, who plays Col. Stuart, had a recurring role as McGarrett's father in the new Hawaii Five-0.
  • 3:47 mark -- the "12 big bad guys walking silently and with purpose" trope that is a Die Hard trademark.
  • 4:25 -- Did they have passenger phones on planes back then?
  • Great scene where McClane is sitting at a table minding his own business and observes the bad guys acting suspiciously. I also like his big gray sweater.
  • Impressive job by the production team in filming the airport scenes against a backdrop of 100+ people moving in different directions. 
  • The coach seats on the plane are luxurious. Thornberg wouldn't be complaining as much if he knew what the coach seats of today look like.
  • "Hey Carmine, let me ask you something. What sets off the metal detectors first? The lead in your ass or the shit in your brains?"
  • Speaking of Carmine, Dennis Franz is great in this movie. Another notable actor is Senator Fred Thompson as the FAA chief.
  • I would have liked more of a backstory on Stuart, like why he was kicked out of military and is helping a dictator.
  • I said about Midnight Run that it's not a movie you'd want to watch on cable because of all the bleeps, and the same applies here. On cable, the memorable quote above memorably turned into "Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon."
  • 40:05 -- I like how McClane drops a quiet WTF when he hears the 40s music in the steam tunnel. 
  • Why is McClane the only one out on the tarmac waving a torch to try and alert the landing plane?  Shouldn't there be a million fire trucks/police cars/etc?
  • The blue cartridge/red cartridge plot element is clever, although Major Grant's men could just as easily have killed McClane and the few other good guys at the church instead of engaging in a fake firefight with Col. Stuart.
  • The nighttime snowmobile scene is great, even if they make the outskirts of Dulles look like the Canadian wilderness.
  • After all this and the authorities still haven't cleared people out of the airport?
  • The part where McClane fires blanks at Carmine to prove a point is funny, but in reality he would have been shot by one of the police officers in the room who didn't know what he was doing.

Final Analysis:
Love this movie, and I'm putting it in the Outstanding category, which is one category above the first Die Hard. What makes it work is the great setting (snowy airport), bad-ass villain (Col. Stuart), the McClane/Carmine dialogue, and the standard Die Hard formula of McClane taking on a hundred guys. It's also worth mentioning that while McClane is a smart guy and a good cop, he's not an ultimate fighting machine or a Rambo type, and he's got an everyman quality that makes him endearing. 

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