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January 2, 2008
Die Hard - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
6/10/198812/12/2007FoxJohn McTiernan
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master AudioMBruce Willis

During the 1980's action movies were a dime a dozen. Stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris were pumping out action movies which returned moderate profits. 20th Century Fox took a gamble though with Die Hard. Rather then casting one of the big action stars they went with Bruce Willis, whose big hit at the time was the TV show Moonlighting. It was quite a departure, and quite a gamble, but in the end it paid off and now Fox has one of the biggest action franchises of all time. The first movie, released in 1988 cost $US28 million to make, and raked in $US138 million at the box office.

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Hans Gruber holds John's wife hostage.
New York City Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) has just arrived in Los Angeles to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). As McClane waits for his wife's office party to break up, terrorist take control of the building. While the terrorist leader, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), rounds up hostages, McClane slips away unnoticed. Armed with only a service revolver and his cunning, McClane launches his own one-man war.

Die Hard is, without a doubt, one of the greatest action movies of all time. From the very opening moments you know this is something special and when the action starts only a few minutes into the movie you're then set for 2 hours of the most intense action sequences put to film. Even today the movie holds up remarkably well with great dialogue, and a believable world. Bruce Will is tough as nails, but also quite charming in places and being a cop makes it believable that he could survive under such conditions. Alan Rickman is terrific as the terrorist leader Hans Gruber and indeed all the supporting cast including Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton as newsman Richard Thornberg, Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Al Powell and Hart Bochner as Ellis put in great, and believable performance as well.

In terms of this actual Blu-Ray release I do have to question Fox as to why, in a movie that runs for 132 minutes, you need 55 chapters - that’s an average of one chapter every 2.4 minutes - and when you want to skip to different parts of the movie certainly becomes quite annoying. Even browsing through the pop-up menu to a scene takes a long time due to no grouping of the chapters. Perhaps Fox can look at this in future.

The first thing that has to be mentioned about this transfer is that it is vastly superior to the DVD release. The Blu-Ray format offers five times the resolution of DVD and for many scenes it is quite apparent with an increase in fine detail and richer colours. Unfortunately though, this release of Die Hard on Blu-Ray doesn't meet the high standards set by so many other catalogue releases on Blu-Ray. While I realise that this movie is approaching 20 years of age now we must mark the movie down due to a number of issues that are quite apparent - even to casual movie watchers.

So what problems do we see on this transfer? Well there are many scenes that suffer from lack of sharpness in the image. If you want to see a prime example have a look at Chapter 9 from 14:03-14:19 to see how soft the image can be - it really would be hard to distinguish from DVD quality. Many other scenes also appear quite soft throughout the movie. It's obvious that Fox haven't done a full restoration on the movie as there is also a bit of film grain here and there and some detail in darker scenes especially seems a bit low. To be honest, for such a blockbuster title we expected a little better then what we have here.

Fortunately the audio is a new notches above the video transfer for Die Hard. Indeed with an English DTS-HD Master Audio track this is probably as good as the movie has ever sounded at home, or even in many theatres. Voices while occasionally a little muffled are clear, while the gunshots and explosions will have your room shaking. Being such an old movie though the surround sound design is quite a bit more restrained then what we would expect today, but it still gets the job done. The music from Michael Kamen is simply brilliant and many of the themes even run through the series to the latest movie Die Hard 4.0.

Other audio tracks on this disc include Italian and Spanish DTS tracks both encoded at 768kbps. Each of these, from brief samples, seemed to be pretty solid tracks as well. Subtitles are provided in ten different languages including English for the Hearing Impaired.

It must be said that for such a major release the lack of extras given to this movie over the years has been a little disappointing and yet again most of the extras on this Blu-Ray release have been recycled from the DVD version. While there are some bits missing, the major extras have been ported, and there is even some nice additions including the Interactive Still Gallery.

Commentary from Director by John McTiernan and Jackson De Govia: This is a pretty interesting commentary which talks about the production, various scene setups, filming locations, actors. A little on the dry side, but there are some interesting topics discussed.

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Time to run John McClane.
Scene Specific Commentary by Richard Elund: The Visual Effects Producer offers comment on the visual effects used in selected scenes through the movie. Surely this commentary could have been incorporated into the other commentary to fill the gaps in that one and make it a little more 'full'. At least you can select the scenes when Richard is talking rather then watching the entire movie and waiting.

The Newscasts (7:59): Unedited, and often showing some mistakes, these are the newscasts used on the TV's throughout the movies. Somewhat interesting.

Interactive Still Gallery (9:27): At first this appears to be just a series of still photos from the shoot however on many of the slides the Nakatomi symbol appears and when clicked on you will go to another small clip with more detail - design sketches and diagrams, daily prints remote controlled helicopter testing and so on. There's some great images here, with many having small descriptions.

Trailers and TV Spots (8:26/HD): A series of trailers and TV spots for Die Hard. Given the age of the source material some of these - the TV Spots in particular - are quite poor in quality. Still it's great to see how this movie was originally promoted to the public.

Fox On Blu-Ray (5:55/HD): Trailers for Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0) and Alien Vs Predator.

To me, Die Hard is one of the greatest action movies put to celluloid. Even today it holds up remarkably well and is a blast from start to end. Unfortunately this transfer to Blu-Ray leaves something to be desired, particularly in terms of video. Still, the movie has never looked better at home, and fans will be pleased to get their hands on this release.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.