You don’t often hear Bridget Jones’s Diary referred to as a Christmas film, despite the presence of a certain reindeer jumper, and London being dusted in an inch of fake snow throughout. Similarly, the Belgian Tourist Office’s hitman documentary In Bruges isn’t the first feature you expect to see when opening your festive Radio Times. And yet Die Hard, the tale of a heist masquerading as a terrorist attack, seems to be a default response for many people when asked to name their favourite Christmas film. (Though, for me, this same response recently uttered in the aforementioned TV tome, by a certain bumbling film columnist has now rendered this proclamation anything but cool.)
We conducted an entirely unscientific analysis of Die Hard as a stand alone Christmas movie. Stripped of all rockets, ineffectual SWAT teams, and carpet based jetlag cures, it went a little something like this.
INT. A PLANE – EVENING
The plane, containing a nervous looking John McClane, lands.
Welcome to LA. Merry Christmas.
No longer nervous looking John McClane departs the plane carrying a giant teddy bear. Bells are ringing.
INT. NAKATOMI CORPORATION OFFICES – EVENING
The offices are decorated with Christmas trees and a party is under way.
NAKATOMI BOSS GUY
Happy New Year!
INT. SOME SWANKY HOUSE IN LA – EVENING
LITTLE KID WHO SHOULD PROBABLY BE IN BED
Mom, when are you coming home? Is Daddy coming home soon?
I promise I haven’t searched the house for presents.
INT. A LIMO – EVENING
John McClane rides in the passenger seat. Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis plays loudly.
Don’t you have any Christmas music?
This is Christmas music!
INT. NAKATOMI CORPORATION OFFICES – EVENING
Jingle Bells plays as John McClare strolls down a corridor.
INT. MCCLANE’S WIFE’S OFFICE – EVENING
John McClane meets his wife, her boss, and her colleague.
Some vaguely racist quip expressing surprise that they celebrate Christmas in Japan.
INT. AN EMPTY OFFICE – EVENING
There is a desk with a Christmas tree on it.
INT. ELEVATOR ON UNKNOWN FLOOR – NIGHT
John McClane holds a lifeless body, spots a large plastic snowman in a Christmas outfit, laughs to himself.
INT. ELEVATOR ON HOSTAGE FLOOR – NIGHT
A gang of mean looking men discover a dead body wearing a Santa hat, with a Christmas inscription written on its jumper. The note reads: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.”
EXT. CENTURY CITY – NIGHT
A lone police car pootles towards the Nakatomi building, before doing a lap of the driveway which is lined with trees covered in fairy lights.
INT. NAKATOMI CORPORATION LOBBY – NIGHT
An unwitting cop bids the lobby security guard farewell, having carried out some kind of basic search.
Merry Christmas to you!
Unwitting cop strolls out of the building singing ‘Let It Snow’ having concluded there is nothing wrong in the building. Moments later, a dead body is thrown onto the bonnet of his car from height.
INT. NAKATMOI VAULT DOORS – NIGHT
GEEKY LOOKING BADDIE
‘Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, except…
the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation.
INT. NAKATOMI VAULT ROOM – NIGHT
It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles.
So be of good cheer and call me when you hit the last lock.
EXT. A MANHOLE NEAR THE NAKATOMI BUILDING – NIGHT
One tall FBI agent, one short FBI agent, an engineer and a deputy chief of police who has an air of being recently usurped are talking.
RECENTLY USURPED LOOKING DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE
Are you crazy? It’s Christmas Eve!
Thousands of people – the Mayor’ll scream bloody murder
EXT. THE REMAINS OF THE NAKATOMI BUILDING – NIGHT
The limo driver, now very dishevelled, walks through piles of dead bodies and general explosion rubble, gets into limo.
DISHEVELLED LIMO DRIVER
If this is their idea of Christmas
I gotta be here for New Year’s.
Let It Snow plays.
Other than that it’s a few shots of a bearer bonds robbery with an artificial tree in the background, external shots of building explosions framed by street light decorations, and the occasional light up Santa perched on a desk, as an office chair gets loaded with C4 and lobbed down an elevator shaft.
I did an equally scientific ‘What’s your favourite Christmas film that isn’t Die Hard’ twitter poll. The result was overwhelmingly Elf. Compare Die Hard to Elf on a frame by frame Christmas basis, and Willis doesn’t stand a chance. No North Pole, no department store, Santa and his sleigh are nowhere to be seen, and there is a distinct lack of James Caan on piano.
But that’s ok. The month of December isn’t just about spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear. It’s also about defending corporations from German faux terrorists. And Bruce Willis in a white vest, punctuating every other sentence with ‘fuck’. Die Hard is a truly magnificent film, and it just happens to be set at Christmas.
Watch Die Hard Sunday 16 December 9pm Film4