Die Hard appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though some concerns appeared, this was a generally acceptable transfer.
Sharpness caused some of the problems. While much of the flick appeared clear and accurate, during a wider shots, I thought the image became slightly soft and fuzzy. This meant a mix of shots that offered terrific definition and others that looked moderately blurry. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was minimal. Source flaws weren’t much of a problem; I saw an occasional mark or streak, but most of the movie looked clean.
Die Hard featured a rather subdued and earthy palette, but the colors it included appeared well reproduced. Occasional red lighting looked tight and concise, and the brownish tones that dominated the film were clear and accurate. A few dusk shots came across especially well, as the movie presented a nice golden glow that seemed quite attractive. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail consistently was appropriately heavy but not excessively dark; low-light scenes provided appealing amounts of opacity. The issues with softness and light dirt left this one a “B-” presentation.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, the soundfield was a high point, as the movie offered a nicely broad and engaging environment through most of the film. The forward spectrum dominated to a degree, and it provided a nicely separated and lively atmosphere. Within the spectrum, sounds seemed to be accurately placed, and they blended together well. During the quieter scenes, the environment was also fairly subdued, but it appeared to be natural and believable.
Since Die Hard is an action flick, however, we really don’t care all that much about the quiet scenes. Where the movie earned its pay was during the slam-bang sequences, and those became quite involving. While the forward channels continued to provide the best-defined elements, the surrounds kicked in a terrific amount of information as well.
Split surround usage occurred only occasionally, and mainly happened when I heard gunfire. Otherwise, the rear speakers tended to feature more general audio, but don’t let that factor make you think they weren’t vibrant participants. When the track demanded a full five-channel meltdown, all the speakers were up to the task and they provided a wide and encompassing track that helped ratchet up the action.
Audio quality was more erratic and caused me to find some fault with the track. The dialogue was the weakest aspect of the mix. Throughout much of the movie, speech sounded somewhat thin and reedy, and many lines didn’t sound as natural and warm as I’d expect from a reasonably recent film. A little edge appeared during louder lines. I never found the dialogue to seem unintelligible, but the quality level was not as high as it should have been.
Some flaws also affected the effects, but these were more consistent. A few elements appeared somewhat flat or bland, but as a whole, effects came across as pretty rich and lively. Explosions and gunfire showed no signs of distortion, and dynamic response seemed to be quite strong. Bass response consistently sounded tight and rich. Blasts rocked the room, and even more subtle low-end elements - such as the hum heard during chapter 39 - were deep and believable. While the effects occasionally displayed a few flaws, they generally appeared very strong.
Also positive was the film’s score. The music showed fine range and seemed clean and vibrant throughout the movie. Highs were crisp and well-defined, while the bass appeared taut and distinct. Music played a strong role in Die Hard, and the soundtrack reproduced it well. Overall, the audio worked well given the movie’s age.
When I compared this Blu-ray to the special edition from 2007, I thought audio was a wash. Both discs presented sound that seemed pretty similar, though the Blu-ray was a bit clearer. However, the Blu-ray definitely improved on the old disc’s visuals. The Blu-ray was cleaner, tighter, and more dynamic. Even with the flaws it offered, it provided a step up in quality.
The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the 2007 DVD plus a couple from the 2001 SE. We find a variety of commentary options. The main track features director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. Both men were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this fairly interesting piece.
The commentary has a few empty gaps, but as a whole the two men cover most of the film, and they do so with useful remarks. Not surprisingly, DeGovia’s statements stick largely with technical issues, and he adds some nice details in that regard; his information helped me better appreciate the design decisions made for the film and how they integrate with the action. He also goes over some of his work on other movies and what issues he feels are important for various sorts of flicks.
McTiernan provides a variety of fun tidbits. He covers some basic issues that related to the production and he discusses changes made to the story along the way. He also adds some notes about his general filmmaking ideas, which means we occasionally hear bits about a few of his other films. Both men occasionally point out continuity flaws and silly aspects of the movie, which contributes a fun tone to the piece. Ultimately, I thought this wasn’t a terrific track, but I enjoyed it and it added to my appreciation of a great film.
(And by the way, if anyone out there has access to McTiernan, tell him that yes, it’s clear that Theo and Karl bet on whether Gruber would shoot Takagi.)
The second commentary is a more limited affair that features special effects supervisor Richard Edlund. Edlund only speaks a few times during the movie, but the disc provides a convenient index that allows us to easily skip the many gaps. Edlund’s remarks appear during 10 of the movie’s 55 chapters, and the amount of material per chapter ranges from a low of 34 seconds in chapter 40 to a high of almost 10 minutes during (and after) chapter 50. All in all, Edlund speaks during approximately 40 minutes of the film.
Although this represents a fairly small percentage of the movie, I like Edlund’s commentary. Obviously he mainly sticks to technical issues, but he covers them concisely and entertainingly. In addition to specific discussions of Die Hard-related topics, Edlund also delves into his work on other films, and since he’s had a very rich career, that makes this piece even more compelling. Although it’s brief, I rather like this mini-commentary from Edlund.
In addition to these two audio tracks, Die Hard includes a text commentary. This piece transcribes interview snippets with a variety of participants. We get new interviews with DeGovia, screenwriter Steven E. DeSouza, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, supervising sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick, producer Lawrence Gordon, composer Michael Kamen, editor John F. Link, stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni, and actor Alan Rickman. A variety of archival statements appear as well, and these come from folks like actors Bruce Willis and Alexander Godunov and a mix of film critics.
General remarks from film historian Eric Lichtenfeld tie this piece together and help make it quite interesting. A wide variety of issues receive coverage, and we hear a lot about the production, technical concerns, and interpretation of the movie. The latter elements were probably the most compelling as they helped add depth to the flick and also placed it within the spectrum of movie history. Overall, I found this text commentary to be a very entertaining and useful program.
Under The Newscasts, we get a collection of the TV news clips seen in the film. Actually, the seven-minute, 59-second reel expands on the stuff we view in the movie. Along with the tidbits we find in the flick, we get some additional lines and outtakes. The quality’s weak, but it’s a fun extra.
Next comes an Interactive Still Gallery. What makes it “interactive”? Occasionally you’ll see the Nakatomi logo on-screen; when that happens, press “enter” and you’ll get items like set blueprints, deleted footage, and dailies. Including the “interactive” stills, this area includes 108 shots plus the video material. It’s a valuable resource.
Trailers and TV Spots includes a bunch of ads, of course. We find three trailers along with seven TV promos. “Fox on Blu-ray” also gives us clips for Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and Alien Vs. Predator.
Many have imitated Die Hard, but none have matched it. 24 years after it wowed theatrical audiences, it remains one of the best action films ever made, and it stands as a seminal experience in moviemaking. To say that it’s a lot of fun would be a gross understatement, as action movies simply don’t get much better than this. This disc provides erratic but generally good picture and sound plus a decent set of supplements. The Blu-ray doesn’t give us a perfect slam-dunk presentation, but it’s the best we’ve gotten to date, so it’s a must-own for Die Hard fans.
To rate this film visit the Five Star Collection review of DIE HARD