IN THE 30 YEARS since its de­but, Die Hard has been riffed on and ripped off be­yond count, and been se­quelized no less than four times. This crown jewel of the Fox cat­a­log, unleashed upon au­di­ences with a fe­roc­ity, per­son­al­ity, and orig­i­nal­ity that we never saw com­ing, will likely never be topped. A very 1980s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dick­ens’ A Christ­mas Carol, it finds grouchy New York City po­lice de­tec­tive John Mc­clane (Bruce Wil­lis) stuck in an un­der-con­struc­tion Los An­ge­les sky­scraper on De­cem­ber 24th. Dur­ing the evening, he faces his demons, a band of slick “ter­ror­ists,” and tough truths about his fail­ings as a hus­band. If he can some­how sur­vive, he might just be able to make ev­ery­thing right.

With mod­ern per­spec­tive, it can be ac­knowl­edged that there is some bad di­a­logue here, along with a cou­ple of hinky plot de­vices. But ul­ti­mately this vi­o­lent game of cat-and-mouse set in an elab­o­rate brick, steel, and glass play­ground still works bril­liantly. The script’s smart de­tails yield gen­uine sus­pense, and its twists are in­spired.

I’ve al­ways loved cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jan De Bont’s use of light and color in this movie, which hasn’t looked this good since it ap­peared on the big screen in 1988. The clar­ity of fo­cus within the 2.35:1 anamor­phic frame (with spe­cial ef­fects cap­tured on large-for­mat 65mm film) has been re­freshed with read­ily vis­i­ble de­tails, even in the fre­quent scenes of waft­ing steam and smoke. The new 4K remaster main­tains a pleas­ing level of vin­tage film grain, while the high dy­namic range adds ur­gency to high­lights, which now look re­ally bright against the night­time sky. Blacks are mostly inky, some­times mildly op­pres­sive, and there’s oc­ca­sional strob­ing in par­al­lel lines dur­ing fast ac­tion, but this re­lease is an un­de­ni­able vis­ual im­prove­ment over the reg­u­lar Blu-ray.

De­spite the video up­grade, the au­dio ap­pears to be the same DTS-HD

Mas­ter Au­dio 5.1 sound­track from the

Blu-ray. It’s a fine track, though, with heavy LFE adding men­ace to ma­chine gun fire. You can guess the two scenes that will be most en­gag­ing: the chair-drop down the el­e­va­tor shaft, and the he­li­copter at­tack, both of which feature beefy ex­plo­sions and gen­er­ous sur­round ac­tiv­ity.

Archival direc­tor com­men­tary, spe­cial ef­fects com­men­tary, plus a sub­ti­tle com­men­tary from cast and crew have all been ported to the 4K plat­ter.

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