Listen now | Today’s movie is Die Hard directed by John McTiernan.
There's a decent series on Netflix called ‟The Movies that Made Us” where they'll take an iconic blockbuster and interview cast/crew/producers/directors and talk about how it got greenlit and produced.
Die Hard is featured in the first season and it's worth checking out if you liked the movie! Features McTiernan, the screenwriters, casting director, stunt director, etc. Only ~40min/episode so a pretty easy watch.
I love Die Hard, it's a fantastic film and a nice change of pace from the last two months. McTiernan is a great director, he does not get as much recognition as Kubrick or Lynch because he works within more delineated genre boundaries, but he has an incredible sense of rhythm and shot design.
Like with "The Hunt for Red October", I noticed he does not do a lot of shot/reverse shot. The whole exposition is made of two shots, which is very nice, it gives some breathing space. As you said, the characters are fleshed out and it feels natural. As another example of characterization, I really liked the speech scene of the CEO, just before he starts talking he goes to the musicians to tell them he is about to start his speech. There's no cut and you don't hear him talk to them, but just with the visuals, it's enough to signify that the character has some standing. There's also the exposition in the limo, it could have felt forced but since the driver is young and nosy it feels like a real, natural conversation. The attention to detail is like that throughout the movie, it's very well made.
On the music side, I really liked how they used motifs of Beethoven's ninth symphony for the whole soundtrack. There's humour in the idea of using the Ode to Joy theme in minor for action scenes, they managed to make it suspenseful but it also makes the movie a little bit less heavy. I also love the ending with "Let It Snow", I like it when the end credits are well-thought-out.
There's a youtube video by RocketJump Film School that explains well the editing of a few scenes of the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNJF_twhKV0. The cinematography is also very good, it's a movie I would pick to look at every frame for visual composition analysis.
It was fun to rewatch, for an action movie it's hard to beat.
A couple notes from me on this one:
1) When listening to the episode, it's going to sound like I was aware (but didn't mention) that Hunt for Red October and Die Hard were directed by the same director. I wasn't! For whatever reason, I never remember which films John McTiernan did, I always have to look it up. So I must just have been picking up on the fact that the "many characters" construction was done so cleanly in both films, and thus compared them.
2) I forgot to mention this during the podcast: there's a nice little thing they do in Die Hard that you may miss the first time around. At the beginning of the movie, John McClane's wife Holly has received a Rolex watch as a gift, a status symbol that exemplifies the tension in their marriage. At the end of the movie, when Hans Gruber is holding on to Holly's arm, it is specifically the watch he is clinging to. John unclasps the watch from Holly's wrist, which causes it to fall (and Hans with it). A nice little symbolic turn at the end, for folks who like that sort of thing :)