It is twelve years on from the last time that the iconic John McClane (Bruce Willis) found himself with a front row seat to yet another terrorist attack and things have changed. No longer a young(ish) family man with a full head of hair, McClane is now a balding, crotchety 40-something estranged from his wife and daughter and following orders as an NYPD detective.
When the FBI’s Cyber-Security Division experiences a computer glitch, all known high level hackers are ordered to be rounded up for questioning. After finding that some have been killed, McClane is ordered to pick up local hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) and luckily arrives just ahead of his would be assassin. After successfully saving Farrell, the two head for Washington DC and arrive just as master villain Thomas Gabriel (the excellent Timothy Olyphant) begins to use code written by the mostly dead hackers to take over the country’s utility systems crippling the daily routine.
As McClane and Farrell are being transported to FBI headquarters, the assassin from earlier re-routes their car into the path of an attack helicopter containing lead henchman Rand (French parkour legend Cyril Raffaelli) and all hell breaks loose. The culmination of this set piece involves McClane taking out the chopper by launching an unmanned police car off a toll booth straight into it. It is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds but it is also everything you could hope for and more from the big screen’s #1 everyman action hero and reminds you as the viewer the John McClane is just plain awesome.
With the chopper dispatched, the two head for a utility superstation inWest Virginiawhere they suspect the next attack will come and sure enough arrive just as the bad guys are taking over. Despite McClane taking out the entire team of bad guys, including Farrell’s assassin from earlier, the superstation is destroyed when Gabriel re-routes natural gas to it and it goes up with a bang. The result is a blackout for most of the Eastern seaboard causing yet more widespread mayhem, however Farrell knows just where to go for answers.
With a trip to see ‘The Warlock’ (a fairly miscast Kevin Smith) reveals all they need to know and it’s a race against time to stop the diabolical Gabriel from wreaking further havoc. Inevitably this involves more show stopping set pieces including some truly outrageous fighter jet vs big truck action that perhaps goes a tad too far.
The reason that Die Hard 4.0 triumphs so well is because everything has been updated correctly. John McClane is old, bald and does not tolerate fools. He does not understand the technological mumbo jumbo that is causing him to have yet another terrible day and he is not impressed with anyone that does. The baddies no longer carry round sticks of dynamite and look to heist bearer bonds from a big safe, instead they carry round laptop computers and look to expose the world’s wrongs, however misguided their methods may be. It is these elements that keep the film credible despite all of the often absurd action scenes and high octane pacing.