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It was a great date, thanks hon

Die Hard 4.0

(released as Live Free Or Die Hard in the USA!USA!USA! shortly before July 4, 2007)

"It's a fire sale - everything must go."

First off, it's a good action movie, worthy of the franchise, and worth seeing if you like Terminator 2: Judgement Day or rollercoasters(1). We rate it eight green tentacles up.

Second off, this here review article thingy contains spoilers, although you might be hard pressed to tell which are real and which I just made up.

Third off, if you see one action movie this summer, and you see this one, you've seen about five or six together.

It's got terrrists

A small, elite team of mercenaries prepare to assassinate a hacker who has fulfilled his purpose. At the same time, the FBI have sent a cop to arrest the hacker.

The cop's name is John McClane.

He's mellowed with age, though. Two of them get away.

***

Except for the foreign hired help, this cyberterrorism plot is homegrown. So the director's not casting more suspicion on foreigners, and although he could have been a bit nicer to computer geniuses in general, one of them gets to play the everyday hero too. (Apparently he was in some Apple commercials in the States. I dunno.)

But it's a very 'Merkin flick, as John and our hacker Matt Ferrel crisscross New York, Baltimore, and Maryland in pursuit of the American Dream the black hats. Some of them shoot their way into an electric grid control station, where they proceed to use stolen logins to quietly shut down power to the American East Coast. They are interrupted by John & co, and are forced to use big noisy explosions instead.

It's got exploshuns

"Whoo!" - John's post-explosion concession that the laws of probability would not normally favor survival when jumping from a semi trailer, which is on fire, onto a F-35B jump jet, which is also on fire, from which the pilot has ejected

***

The Irish-American everycop John McClane must have one big mystical four-leaf-clover tattoed on his hiney, that glows and spins when terrorists are in the area, and provides him that one-in-a-million chance of survival nine times out of ten. Slight improbabilities aside, it could have happened - I spotted no obvious violations of the laws of physics.

Despite the exploding apartment block. And helicopter. And SUV. And natural gas pipelines. And missiles. And the White House...

It's got computors

Computors that EXPLODE.(2)

Our young hacker's got an enviable bag of tricks, including a Nokia Communicator and the charger for same, allowing him to run terminal emulators via car cigarette lighter even when the national power grid is down. His next-up in the hacker hierarchy, Warlock, still lives in his mom's basement, but - "How will we recognize his house from the air?" "It'll be the only one with the lights still on."

John and Matt make a good team; John knows hotwiring (and heroics) and Matt knows engine immobilizers (and how to hotwire a computer).

***

The portrayal of computers and hacking is glammed up a bit but not entirely unrealistic. There has been an evolution of the portrayal of computers in movies; we are shown part of an IM chat - quick enough for the film's tempo - instead of the typist. The bad guys in the Data Warehouse can tell when they're being pinged. And our hacker, given a few minutes alone with the valuable datafile, encrypts it with a secret key. Which makes the bad guys angry, and they resort to rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

The supervillan is even higher up in the hacker hierarchy, BITTER UNRECOGNIZED SUPER-GENIUS level. And he's got inside information from his former job. "He once broke into a joint chiefs-of-staff meeting and hacked into NORAD from a laptop to prove a point (about weak security). They put a gun to his head and forced him to stop."

It's got Homeland Sekurity

Clearing the government buildings by setting off "Anthrax Alarms" was a nice touch. I suspected they didn't exist(3) but it sounds like just the panicked treat-the-symptom approach we foreigners have come to love. This was as funny as being introduced to Agent Johnson of the FBI.

Then the terrorists take over the TV channels and play an "All Your Base"-type video. "That was creepy." "Yeah, I tried to get more Nixon in there."

John gets a little preachy when he says hackers shouldn't get excited about having the power to shut down the system, because lives of real people depend on not having to live in anarchy. We agree in principle, so we'll forgive the preaching.

and other stuff

It's got collectible figurines of mecha and cardboard cutouts of Boba Fett. It's got a kidnapped daughter, a ninja girl, Parkour terrorists, hurtling cars, a juggernaut semi, and the phrase "I'll be right back". It's got SUV's hanging from cables not unlike Jurassic Park II. Did I mention the Terminator gets to blow up stuff, too?

The one thing it doesn't have is Transformers, so you might want to see another movie for those. Well, it might have one, but it gets broken.

And then it explodes.


see also Die Hard Die Hard 2: Die Harder Die Hard with a Vengeance Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!
some facts from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337978/
some more facts from "The Event Guide", 27th June edition, Dublin

(1) I recommend the Kraken, SeaWorld, Orlando
(2) Slight nitpick: If these hackers have custom-assembled their rigs, with multiple Matrix-like displays, they quite possibly take them apart on a regular basis to upgrade them, or just to fondle the hardware. And nobody noticed the C4 on the new power supply? Or is this a standard feature of power supplies nowadays? "Yeah, it's silicon heat transfer compound."
(3) Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.(4)
(4) Apparently the other half is violence.

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