‘Live Free or Die Hard’ (2007)

‘Live Free or Die Hard’ (2007) Far from being the second- or third-installment of a franchise that we’ve already become tired of, ‘ Live Free or Die Hard aka ‘Die Hard 4′ actually has some timely, new ideas to explore, especially if you jettison any notions about ‘freedom’ and how that’s meant to figure in the plot.

As with ‘ 300 ‘ earlier this summer, ‘freedom’ is simply a marketing tag, convenient only for the movie’s scheduled release date of Jun 27, 2007 – just in time for the big 4th of July weekend.

What’s good here is that the franchise has made an effort to evolve – there are no Eurotrash terrorists in this installment and the Japanese takeover of American consumer culture is pretty much a thing of the past. The watchword of this new installment is Info-War – the matrix of information warfare , Cyber-warfare and psychological warfare .In the case of DH4 , it is people hijacking a computerized infrastrructure, an idea we’ve seen rear its head numerous times over the past 30 odd years, starting with ‘ Colossus:The Forbin Project ‘ back in 1970, a notable stopover at ‘ War Games ‘ in 1983 and movies like ‘ Hackers ‘ (1995) and ‘ Swordfish ‘ in 2002, though the premise reached its nadir in 1999, when Tyler Durden rigged explosives to destroy the credit records in the TransAmerica building in San Francisco.

In his May, 1997 article, ‘ A Farewell To Arms ‘, author John Carliin describes a joint tactical exercise by the Nation’s Defense and Security agencies called The Day After ,

The game takes 50 people, in five teams of ten. To ensure a fair and fruitful contest, each team includes a cross-section of official Washington – CIA spooks, FBI agents, foreign policy experts, Pentagon boffins, geopoliticos from the National Security Council – not the soldiers against the cops against the spies against the geeks against the wonks.

In the case of ‘Die Hard 4′, the movie starts with approximately 10 individuals marching into a command center and taking control of the infrastructure of the Northeast corridor.

This time, John McClane is only up against a 100% home-grown terrorist ( Deadwood ‘s Timothy Olyphant) who only wants to destroy America’s financial records and then somehow ‘get away with the loot’.

Okay, that may be the plot-hole that we trip across at the 3/4 mark in this movie, but the film is not without its other delights – it is essentially small-’l’ libertarian porn that rails at the rights of ‘creatives’, while it simultaneously savages the Bush Administration for its failure to uphold the ‘New Deal’ policies of responding to a national crisis. Information wants to be free and the IT specialist who designed numerous security protociols for the DoD believes he’s still entitled to a cost-plus incentive even if he’s no longer on the Federal payroll ( Hello, Halliburton… ). As is to be expected, our hero (McClain) becomes the final bulwark in a campaign against corporate-style villains who are a small but well organized group of hackers.

This installation of the franchise was written by Mark Bomback and David Marconi inspired by Carlin’s article . It was directed by Len Wiseman (‘ Underworld ‘, ‘ Underworld:Evolution ) and more than any other of the Die Hard installments, there’s a pronounced fantasy component to the spectacle. Here, the mercenaries take on werewolf-like strength and endurance as they fall from buildings and vehicles and MacLane creates exciting new moves by using cars as projectiles when he’s out of bullets. Somehow, I just don’t think that some of those flying cars are possible without a suspension of disbeleif…

Also of interest here are character names and casting choices to the writers and the casting directors – Justin Long (the Mac Guy on the Mac v. PC coommercials) iplays something of a poor man’s Nick Stahl here, just as Mary Elizabeth Winstead seems to be something of a ringer for Lindsay Lohan – in this matrix of relationships, John Connor lives and breathes 1 as the hacker that saves America just as America’s troubled sweetheart is embodied by John McClane’s daughter. The increasingly ubiquitous Cliff Curtis also features here as a Homeland Security official by the name of ‘Bowman’, as in Dave Bowman of ‘ 2001:A Space Odyssey ‘. A mistake? Given the circumstances, I think not. See the movie and decide for yourself.

(Also be on the look-out for Kevin Smith’s small role in the movie.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

1 . In many other reviews, writers have compared the 53 y.o. Willis to ‘The Terminator’; again, see the movie and decide for yourself.

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