Live Free or Die Hard

Directed By: Len Wiseman

Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Jonathan Sadowski, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kevin Smith, and Cliff Curtis

"It's a three-step systematic attack on the entire national infrastructure.  Okay, step one: take out all the transportation.  Step two: the financial base and telecoms.  Step three: You get rid of all the utilities.  Gas, water, electric, nuclear.  Pretty much anything that's run by computers which... which today is almost everything.  So that's why they call it a fire sale, because everything must go."
-Matt Farrell (Justin Long)

We live in a world where technology is king.  It's the handy smartphones we keep in our back pockets.  It's the life-saving technologies that help us to live longer, better, safer lives.  It's the databases that house lifetimes of information on our wealth and health.  Imagine if this were all taken away and what it would be like to go back to the Stone Age.  Life as we know it would be a fading memory, and we would all be in serious trouble without the systems and technologies we know and love.  In Live Free or Die Hard, director Len Wiseman gives us a little taste of what that horrific, chaotic life would be like.

After having their "secure" network hacked, the cyber security division of the FBI decides to bring in every hacker capable of carrying out an attack of this nature on their network.  Because it's Fourth of July weekend and a lot of their resources are off duty, Deputy Director Miguel Bowman (Cliff Curtis) must rely on local police departments to help them out.  That's how senior NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) goes from stalking his estranged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to driving down to Jersey to take "hackboy" Matthew Farrell (Long) to DC.

When McClane goes to pick up Farrell, he soon finds himself embroiled in a gunfight.  A professional crew arrives at Farrell's apartment to take out the young technical genius.  McClane and Farrell escape to DC and reach the FBI offices, but Bowman has bigger problems than the hacking of the FBI's network.  Someone just took out the nation's transportation systems, and the roadways have become a chaotic mess.  What is transpiring is the beginning of a fire sale, a three-step attack on the nation's infrastructure that will deprive Americans of transportation, finances, and utilities.  It was supposed to be a much simpler day for McClane because all he had to do was pick up a kid in Jersey.  The FBI just had to have a senior detective pick him up.

Live Free or Die Hard is a high-tech action thriller that has everything going for it.  Under the eye of director Len Wiseman, this nonstop thrill ride brings virtual terrorism to life in a grand yet eerie fashion.  It certainly helps that Timothy Olyphant delivers a high-strung psychopath as primary villain Thomas Gabriel.  After 12 long years, the film marks an impressive return to form for action icon Bruce Willis in the role of John McClane.  He even has a new riding buddy in Justin Long's slippery and hilarious hacker Matthew Farrell.  All in all, Live Free or Die Hard is exactly the kind of popcorn fare that keeps us going back to theaters.

Len Wiseman's Live Free or Die Hard brings virtual terrorism to life in a way that has to unnerve each and every one of us watching the movie.  We get a firsthand taste of life without the vital technologies on which we depend and a life without the interconnectedness that defines our time.  Wiseman shows us this grand chaos on the streets, in police departments, and in hospitals.  Because everything is gone, no one can get any service or assistance in their hour of need.  Essentially, our society is not functioning, and that's a scary thing.  Wiseman couples this with little nuggets of fear such as teasing the destruction of major landmarks and giving us the creepiest presidential video of all time.  Wiseman gives a whole new chilling meaning to President George W. Bush's statement "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail".

At the same time that Wiseman creates this chaotic world, he puts a high-tech twist on the modern action thriller.  This all stems from the fact that all the crises in this film come from a few strokes of a keyboard.  Writing a couple of lines of code can create a very bad situation for our heroes, and that's something that Wiseman somehow makes gripping to watch.  Wiseman makes hackers the most dangerous men in the movie.  However, he doesn't forget what makes a Die Hard movie a Die Hard movie.  Wiseman demonstrates some operational prudence by offering plenty of big guns as hardware to the hackers' software.  Delivering pulse-pounding thrills with cyber terrorists and more explosions than a Transformers film while doing so, Wiseman fuses the old school thrills of a Die Hard with the new terrors of today.

The cast in Live Free or Die Hard is firing on all cylinders.  Even though there's a 12-year gap between Die Hard: With a Vengeance and this fourth installment, Bruce Willis hasn't missed a beat.  The veteran action star is kicking ass and doing what he does best.  After all, Willis kills a helicopter with a car.  It doesn't get much better than that.  He may not be a fan of the Fett, and he certainly isn't the most tech savvy person in the world.  Nonetheless, Willis's McClane is still that guy.  He's the badass hero you can't help but enjoy watching as he goes to work on some baddies and talks trash while doing so.  Bruce Willis has still got it.

Willis gets a new partner in Justin Long's Matt Farrell.  While he's no Samuel L. Jackson, Long is one hilarious accessory to Armageddon.  He has great chemistry with Willis as they annoy the hell out of each other in comical fashion.  As villain Thomas Gabriel, Timothy Olyphant has a really creepy vibe.  While he's certainly a badass menace whenever he takes the keyboard, Olyphant's greatest asset is that he's a bit off kilter.  There's something about his character that's just not right.  He's an unstable psycho who's focused on making the country pay.  Crazy villains are the scariest ones because the rules can always change with them.

Live Free or Die Hard is an awesome action movie that introduces the Die Hard franchise to a new generation of moviegoers.  With solid direction from Len Wiseman and strong performances from the cast, you can't go wrong with John McClane's fourth outing.  However, it is worth noting that the unrated version is much truer to its R-rated predecessors than the PG-13 theatrical release.  Live Free or Die Hard gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have a few wine coolers with this one.