Saturday, 8 September 2007

Movie Review: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)


Let's get this out of the way: there is a scene towards the end of Live Free or Die Hard that involves a large truck, a military fighter jet, and a freeway. It's giving away nothing to announce that the scene ends with all three being totally destroyed. To say that this scene is over-the-top does not start to do it justice. Over-the-highest-peaks-of-groan-inducing-special-effects-that-destroy-all-credibility is more like it. This is not to pretend that the rest of the action scenes in this film are actually realistic. But there is an invisible thin line between escapism and cartoons; once crossed, the viewer is just left embarrased.

Which is a shame. Because until that point, Live Free or Die Hard is a pretty entertaining romp, with very well-directed action sequences, interesting characters (both good and evil), and a modern update on the Die Hard theme.

This time around, a team of techno-nerds, with a suitably evil leader, launches a melt-down of the computer systems of the United States. Everything from traffic lights, to the power and utility grid, to the civil and military centres of intelligence, are electronically infiltrated, manipulated and corrupted. Director Len Wiseman manages very well to make computers, monitors and manical typing on keyboards actually exciting.

A team of heavily armed mercenaries, complete with fully-equipped vans and helicopters, is out there assisting the bad guys, mainly by eliminating anyone who can unravel their plot, and this includes a group of young computer hackers.

Of course, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is unwittingly assigned to protect one of these hackers, played by Justin Long (Mac in all the Mac v/s PC commercials). That is it as far as the plot goes. The action never lags, and Willis and Long form a decent combo as they evade the bad guys while trying to rescue the world.

The characters are nicely rounded out by McClane's daughter, an FBI agent in over his head, and a hacker guru who is recruited to help the good guys.

The action sequences are sharply edited with an emphasis on maintaining comprehension and highlighting McClane's attitude and wit. Willis is excellent and comfortable playing the older, wiser, and more weathered McClane. Also prominent and impressive is Maggie Q as one of the conspiracy's co-leaders; she presents a suitably challenging and athletic foe.

It all moves well and hits all the right notes until that freeway scene, at which point the best response is to roll your eyes and longingly remember the days when special effects could enhance a movie, but not destroy it.



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