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31 Things We Learned from John McTiernan’s ‘Die Hard’ Commentary

‘Die Hard’ remains an all-time action classic. This commentary? Not so much.
Die Hard
Twentieth Century Fox
By  · Published on July 19th, 2011

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Jeremy Kirk makes fists with his toes and heads out to the coast for one hell of a party while listening to John McTiernan’s commentary on 1988’s Die Hard.

And welcome back to Commentary Commentary, our weekly scouring of the DVD shelves and all the vast film knowledge held therein. It’s time once again to listen to a feature-length film commentary from one of our most beloved films and go over all the great pieces of information we learn from it.

This week, we’ve got another classic, a film that sparked a whole sub-genre of other films. And, before you pitch the idea of “Die Hard on a Film Blog,” know that Joel Silver probably has three screenplays in his office with that exact same pitch. That’s right. This week, we’re cracking open our copy of Die Hard and going through the commentary. So sit back, enjoy how not Christmas-y it is right now, and drink some eggnog anyway. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

Die Hard (1988)

Commentators: John McTiernan (director), Jackson De Govia (production designer), the bombastic sounds of “Ode to Joy”

Best in Commentary

“It’s okay to think this is ridiculous, because the storytellers thinks it’s ridiculous.” – John McTiernan

“Die Hard is successful because everyone in it is really cool, and real things happen to them.” – Jackson De Govia

Die Hard is not unique in that it doesn’t date. Fred Astaire doesn’t date. John Ford doesn’t date. In time, this is going to look like a wonderful period movie like those films we loved that we all grew up watching on TV.” – Jackson De Govia.

Final Thought

All in all, the Die Hard commentary gives a lot of insight into John McTiernan as a director and Jackson De Govia as a production designer. There are a lot of instances where each commentator goes back to a well one too many times. Mctiernan’s keeps bringing up the idea of including joy in the film, and De Govia’s insistence on making everything appear real are somewhat tedious. In fact, one instance of De Govia going on and on about comparing the opening of the vault and the FBI’s involvement in that to breaking through to the heart of the audience scratched the needles across the record a bit. It’s such a meandering train of thought that goes on and on, it isn’t hard to zone out.

Likewise, it is obvious from the word “Go” that the two commentators are not in same room. This brings up a odd juxtaposition between what is being said by one or the other and what is actually going on in the film at that time. Also, this allows for certain stretches of dead air that leaves you wondering whether or not you accidentally turned the feature off. Nonetheless, there is a lot of talk about style and technique throughout the Die Hard commentary, much more so than on-set stories that don’t give much comprehension on the film making process. McTiernan’s grasp of filmmaking knowledge and camera movement and composition is incredible, which makes you really wonder where the Roller Ball remake came from.

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