Live Free or Die Hard

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Live Free or Die Hard
Live Free or Die Hard.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Len Wiseman
Produced by Michael Fottrell
Screenplay by Mark Bomback
Story by
Based on
Starring
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Simon Duggan
Edited by Nicolas De Toth
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 27, 2007 (2007-06-27)
Running time 129 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
French
Italian
Budget $110 million[1]
Box office $383,531,464[1]

Live Free or Die Hard (released as Die Hard 4.0 outside North America) is a 2007 American action film, and the fourth installment in the Die Hard film series. The film was directed by Len Wiseman and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane. The film's name was adapted from New Hampshire's state motto, "Live Free or Die".

McClane is attempting to stop cyber terrorists who hack into government and commercial computers across the United States with the goal to start a "fire sale" of financial assets. The film was based on the 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin.[2] The film's North American release date was June 27, 2007.[1]

The project was initially stalled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and when production eventually began, the film's title was changed several times. A variety of visual effects were used for action sequences, even though Wiseman and Willis stated that they wanted to limit the amount of CGI in the film. In separate incidents during filming, both Willis and his stunt double were injured.

Unlike the prior three films in the series, the U.S. rating was PG-13 rather than R. An unrated version contained more strong profanity and violence not shown in the theatrical version, and was included in the DVD release.

Reviews were positive with an 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 69/100 from Metacritic. The film earned total international box office gross receipts of $383.4 million, making it the highest-grossing film in the Die Hard series. It debuted at #2 at the U.S. box office.[3]

For the DVD release, 20th Century Fox pioneered a new kind of DRM, Digital Copy protection that tries to weaken the incentives for consumers to learn how to rip discs by offering them a downloadable version with studio-imposed restrictions. The score for the film was released on July 2, 2007. The fifth film in the series, titled A Good Day to Die Hard, was released on February 14, 2013.[4]

Plot[edit]

The FBI responds to a brief computer outage at their Cyber-Security Division by tracing down top computer hackers, finding several of them have been killed. Taking others into protective custody, the FBI asks New York City Police Department detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) to bring in Matthew "Matt" Farrell (Justin Long). McClane finally arrives just in time to prevent Farrell from being killed by assassins working for a mysterious cyber-terrorist named Mai Linh (Maggie Q), working for her boss and love interest, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). En route to Washington, D.C. with McClane, Farrell reveals that he received a large sum of money from Mai to write an algorithm that can crack a security system. As McClane and Farrell arrive in Washington, Gabriel orders his own crew of hackers to take control of the transportation grids and stock market, while nationally broadcasting a message threatening the United States. Farrell recognizes this as the start of a "fire sale", an attack designed to target the nation's reliance on computer controls, such that "everything must go". McClane and Farrell are taken by police escort to the secure FBI headquarters, but Mai reroutes the convoy into the path of an assault helicopter. McClane takes downs the helicopter by launching a police car over a damaged toll booth into it.

As McClane and Farrell finally recover, Gabriel initiates a second broadcast by showing a simulated explosion of the U.S. Capitol building, sending the public into panic. Farrell recognizes that his next target of the "fire sale" is likely the power grid, and the two drive to a utility superstation in West Virginia. When they arrive, a team led by Mai is breaking in and taking over the station's controls. McClane kills all of them, and sends Mai to her death in a vehicle at the bottom of an elevator shaft. He obtains video footage of Gabriel which he relays to the F.B.I. Enraged over Mai's death, Gabriel takes remote control of the natural gas distribution system and redirects all of the gas into the station. McClane and Farrell manage to escape before the station explodes, leaving much of the eastern seaboard without power.

Farrell connects McClane with a fellow hacker, Frederick "Warlock" Kaludis (Kevin Smith), in Baltimore. Running his computer systems from several generators, Warlock identifies the piece of code Farrell wrote as a means to access data at a master Social Security Administration building at Woodlawn, Maryland. They realize the building is actually a National Security Agency facility, designed by Gabriel when he worked for the NSA as a backup facility for the nation's entire personal and financial records to be used in the event of a cyber attack similar to the one Gabriel has created. Warlock tells McClane and Matt that Gabriel is an extremely talented programmer who was a top security expert for the U.S. Defense Department. Gabriel tried to alert the politicians and military leadership to critical weaknesses that left America's network infrastructure open to cyberwarfare, but his methods led to his dismissal. Warlock runs a traceroute and attempts to identify Gabriel's location, but Gabriel detects the intrusion.

Gabriel taps into their connection and speaks with Warlock, Farrell, and McClane. Gabriel reveals that he had successfully located McClane's estranged daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and intends to kidnap her. McClane and Farrell race to the Woodlawn facility, where Farrell soon discovers that Gabriel is downloading all the information onto his portable computer system, and he manages to encrypt the data before all of Gabriel's henchmen can access it. However, Gabriel kidnaps Farrell as he tries to escape the facility. McClane pursues Gabriel, hijacking his semi. McClane enlists Warlock to trace Gabriel's vehicle. With McClane in pursuit, Gabriel accesses the communication system of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II. Pretending that he is an air traffic controller, Gabriel orders the pilot to attack the truck McClane is driving, in which McClane manages to escape the assault when debris from the damaged truck fall into the jet intake of the aircraft from a highway exit ramp. McClane makes his way to a nearby warehouse where Warlock has successfully tracked Gabriel. Although McClane kills most of Gabriel's remaining henchmen, Emerson (Edoardo Costa) shoots him in the right shoulder. While Gabriel tries to hold McClane from behind, McClane manages to gain control of Gabriel's weapon and fatally shoots him through his own shoulder. Farrell then kills Emerson in the ensuing confusion. As the FBI finally arrives to tend to his wounds and clean up, McClane pretends to be displeased with the romantic feelings developing between Farrell and Lucy.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Script and title[edit]

The film's plot is based on an earlier script entitled WW3.com by David Marconi, screenwriter of the 1998 film Enemy of the State.[11] Using John Carlin's Wired magazine article entitled "A Farewell to Arms", Marconi crafted a screenplay about a cyber-terrorist attack on the United States.[2][12] The attack procedure is known as a "fire sale", depicting a three-stage coordinated attack on a country's transportation, telecommunications, financial, and utilities infrastructure systems. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the project was stalled, only to be resurrected several years later and rewritten into Live Free or Die Hard by Doug Richardson and eventually by Mark Bomback.[13]

Willis said in 2005 that the film would be called Die Hard 4.0, as it revolves around computers and cyber-terrorism. IGN later reported the film was to be called Die Hard: Reset instead.[14] 20th Century Fox later announced the title as Live Free or Die Hard and set a release date of June 29, 2007 with filming to begin in September 2006.[15][16] The title is based on New Hampshire's state motto, "Live Free or Die", which is attributed to a quote from General John Stark. International trailers use the Die Hard 4.0 title,[17] as the film was released outside North America with that title. Early into the film's DVD commentary, both Wiseman and Willis note a preference for Die Hard 4.0, and subtly mock the Live Free or Die Hard title.[18]

Visual effects[edit]

For the visual effects used throughout the film, actor Bruce Willis and director Len Wiseman stated that they wanted to use a limited amount of CGI.[19] One VFX producer said that "Len was insisting on the fact that, because we’ve got Transformers and other big CG movies coming out, this one has to feel more real. It has to be embedded in some kind of practical reality in order to give it that edge of being a Die Hard."[20] Companies such as Digital Dimension, The Orphanage, R!ot, Pixel Magic, and Amalgamated Pixels assisted in the film's visual effects.[20]

Digital Dimension worked on 200 visual effects shots in the film,[21] including the sequence that shows characters John McClane and Matt Farrell crouching between two cars as another car lands on top of the other cars. To achieve this effect, a crane yanked the car and threw it in the air onto the two cars that were also being pulled by cables. The shot was completed when the two characters were integrated into the footage of the car stunt after the lighting was adjusted and CGI glass and debris were added.[20] In the same sequence, John McClane destroys a helicopter that several of Gabriel's henchman are riding in by ramming it with a car. This was accomplished by first filming one take where one of Gabriel's henchman, Rand, jumps from the helicopter, and in the next take the car is propelled into the stationary helicopter as it is hoisted by wires. The final view of the shot overlays the two takes, with added CGI for the debris and moving rotor blades.[20] The company also assisted in adding cars for traffic collisions and masses of people for evacuations from several government buildings.[21]

The Orphanage developed a multi-level freeway interchange for use in one of the film's final scenes by creating a digital environment and a 1,000-foot (300 m) long spiral ramp that was built in front of a bluescreen.[22] When a F-35 jet is chasing McClane on the freeway, a miniature model and a full-size prop were both built to assist in digitally adding the jet into the scene.[22][23] The nine-foot model was constructed from November 2006 through February 2007.[22] When the jet is shown hovering near the freeway, editors used the software 3D graphics program Maya to blur the background and create a heat ripple effect.[22]

Filming and injuries[edit]

Justin Long, Bruce Willis, and Len Wiseman filming on location in Baltimore.

Filming for Live Free or Die Hard started in downtown Baltimore, Maryland on September 23, 2006.[24] Eight different sets were built on a large soundstage for filming many scenes throughout the film.[25] When recording the sound for the semi trailer used in one of the film's final scenes, 18 microphones were used to record the engine, tires, and damage to the vehicle.[25] Post-production for the film only took 16 weeks, when it was more common for similar films to use 26 weeks.[25]

An F.B.I. Police (CVPI) car used during filming.

In order to prevent possible injuries and be in peak condition for the film, Willis worked out almost daily for several months prior to filming.[26] Willis was injured January 24, 2007 during a fight scene, when he was kicked above his right eye by a stunt double for actress Maggie Q who was wearing stiletto heels. Willis described the event as "no big deal" but when Len Wiseman inspected his injury, he noticed that the situation was much more serious than previously thought—in the DVD commentary, Wiseman indicates in inspecting the wound that he could see bone. Willis was hospitalized and received seven stitches which ran through his right eyebrow and down into the corner of his eye. Due to the film's non-linear production schedule, these stitches can accidentally be seen in the scene where McClane first delivers Farrell to Bowman.[27]

Throughout filming, between 200 and 250 stunt people were used.[25] Bruce Willis' stunt double, Larry Rippenkroeger, was knocked unconscious when he fell 25 feet (7.6 m) from a fire escape to the pavement. Rippenkroeger suffered broken bones in his face, several broken ribs, a punctured lung, and fractures in both wrists. Due to his injuries, production was temporarily shut down. Willis personally paid the hotel bills for Rippenkroeger's parents and visited him a number of times at the hospital.[28]

During filming, Bruce Willis reportedly had plenty of creative control and considered himself the "gatekeeper of the Die Hard mythos." The Warlock scene was rewritten several times. Kevin Smith recalls the entire process on his third Q&A DVD, Sold Out: A Threevening with Kevin Smith. An entire day of shooting the Warlock scene was lost due to rewrites requested by Willis.

Rating[edit]

In the United States, the first three films in the Die Hard series were rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. Live Free or Die Hard, however, was edited to obtain a PG-13 rating. In some cases, alternate profanity-free dialogue was shot and used or swearing was cut out in post-production to reduce profanity. Director Len Wiseman commented on the rating, saying "It was about three months into it [production], and I hadn't even heard that it was PG-13... But in the end, it was just trying to make the best Die Hard movie, not really thinking so much about what the rating would be."[18] Bruce Willis was upset with the studio's decision, stating, "I really wanted this one to live up to the promise of the first one, which I always thought was the only really good one. That's a studio decision that is becoming more and more common, because they’re trying to reach a broader audience. It seems almost a courageous move to give a picture an R rating these days. But we still made a pretty hardcore, smashmouth film."[29] Willis said he thought that viewers unaware that it was not an R-rated film would not suspect so due to the level and intensity of the action as well as the usage of some profanity, although he admitted these elements were less intense than in the previous films.[30][31] He also said that this film was the best of the four: "It's unbelievable. I just saw it last week. I personally think, it's better than the first one."[32]

In the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Classification awarded the film a 15 rating (including the unrated version, released later), the same as Die Hard with a Vengeance and Die Hard 2, albeit both were cut for both theatrical and video release, (the first film in the series originally received an 18 certificate). All films have been re-rated 15 uncut. Die Hard 4.0 was released with no cuts made and the cinema version (i.e. US PG-13 version) consumer advice read that it "contains frequent action violence and one use of strong language".[33] The unrated version was released on DVD as the "Ultimate Action Edition" with the consumer advice "contains strong language and violence".[34]

In Australia, Die Hard 4.0 was released with the PG-13 cut with an M rating, the same as the others in the series (The Australian Classification Board is less strict with regards to language and to a lesser extent, violence). The unrated version was later released on Blu-ray also with an M rating.

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

Live Free or Die Hard debuted at #2 at the box office and made $9.1 million in its first day of release in 3,172 theaters, the best opening day take of any film in the Die Hard series (not taking inflation into account).[3][35] On its opening weekend Live Free or Die Hard made $33.3 million ($48.3 million counting Wednesday and Thursday).[36] The film made $134.5 million domestically, and $249.0 million overseas for a total of $383.5 million, making it the twelfth highest-grossing film of 2007.[1] To date, it is the most successful film in the series.[37]

Critical reception[edit]

Die Hard 4.0 was well received by critics and fans. The film has a score of 82% with a certified "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 206 reviews with the consensus being it is "an efficient, action-packed summer popcorn flick"; it also has a score of a "generally favorable" 69/100 on Metacritic based on 34 reviews.[38][39] A review on IGN stated "Like the recent Rocky Balboa, this new Die Hard works as both its own story about an over-the-hill but still vital hero and as a nostalgia trip for those who grew up with the original films."[40] On the television show Ebert & Roeper, film critic Richard Roeper and guest critic Katherine Tulich gave the film "two thumbs up", with Richard Roeper stating that the film is "not the best or most exciting Die Hard, but it is a lot of fun" and that it is his favorite among the sequels to the original Die Hard. Roeper also remarked, "Willis is in top form in his career-defining role."[41] Michael Medved gave the film three and a half out of four stars, opining, "a smart script and spectacular special effects make this the best Die Hard of 'em all."[42]

Among the more unfavorable reviews, Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer stated: "I can safely say I've never seen anything as ridiculous as Live Free or Die Hard." Toppman also wrote that the film had a lack of memorable villains and referred to John McClane as "just a bald Terminator with better one-liners".[43]

Soundtrack[edit]

Live Free or Die Hard Score
Soundtrack album by Marco Beltrami
Released July 2, 2007
Length 63:06
Label Varèse Sarabande

The score for Live Free or Die Hard, written by Marco Beltrami, was released on July 2, 2007 by Varèse Sarabande (which also released the soundtracks for the first two Die Hard films), several days after the United States release of the film. This was the first film not to be scored by Michael Kamen, due to his death in 2003; Beltrami incorporates Kamen's thematic material into his score, but Kamen is not credited on the film or the album. Other songs in the film include "Rock & Roll Queen" by The Subways, "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and "I'm So Sick" by Flyleaf. Eric Lichtenfeld, reviewing from Soundtrack.net, said of the score's action cues "the entire orchestra seems percussive, flow well together."[44]

  1. "Out of Bullets" (1:08)
  2. "Shootout" (3:41)
  3. "Leaving the Apartment" (2:08)
  4. "Dead Hackers" (1:31)
  5. "Traffic Jam" (4:13)
  6. "It's a Fire Sale" (2:57)
  7. "The Break-In" (2:28)
  8. "Farrell to D.C." (4:36)
  9. "Copter Chase" (4:41)
  10. "Blackout" (2:03)
  11. "Illegal Broadcast" (3:48)
  12. "Hurry Up!" (1:23)
  13. "The Power Plant" (2:01)
  14. "Landing" (2:28)
  15. "Cold Cuts" (2:00)
  16. "Break a Neck" (2:47)
  17. "Farrell Is In" (4:22)
  18. "The F-35" (4:13)
  19. "Aftermath" (3:12)
  20. "Live Free or Die Hard" (2:56)

Home media release[edit]

The Blu-ray and DVD were released on October 29, 2007, in the United Kingdom,[45] on October 31 in Hungary,[46] November 20 in the United States,[47] and December 12 in Australia. The DVD topped rental and sales charts in its opening week of release in the U.S. and Canada.[48][49] There is an unrated version, which retains much of the original 'R-rated' dialogue, and a theatrical version of the film. However, the unrated version has a branching error resulted in one of the unrated changes to be omitted. The film briefly switches to the PG-13 version in the airbag scene; McClane's strong language is missing from this sequence (although international DVD releases of the unrated version are unaffected).[50] The Blu-ray release features the PG-13 theatrical cut which runs at 128 minutes, while the Collector's Edition DVD includes both the unrated and theatrical versions. Time magazine's Richard Corliss named it one of the Top 10 DVDs of 2007, ranking it at #10.[51] The German Blu-ray release of the "Die Hard Legacy Collection" features the unrated version for the first time in HD, and the disc is region-free.[52]

The DVD for the film was the first to include a Digital Copy of the film which could be played on a PC or Mac computer and could also be imported into several models of portable video players.[53] Mike Dunn, a president for 20th Century Fox, stated "The industry has sold nearly 12 billion DVDs to date, and the release of Live Free or Die Hard is the first one that allows consumers to move their content to other devices."[53]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b By NIKKI FINKE, Editor in Chief (2007-06-29). "'Ratatouille' Roasts Rivals, 'Die Hard' #2; Michael Moore's 'Sicko' Has Healthy Debut". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  4. ^ A Good Day to Die Hard at the Internet Movie Database
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  50. ^ "Rewind DVD comparison". 
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External links[edit]