Die Hard 2 (1990)


Introduction

Die Hard 2 – aka Die Hard 2: Die Harder – is a 1990 American action-thriller film and the second instalment in the Die Hard film series.

As with the first film, the action in Die Hard 2 takes place on Christmas Eve. McClane is waiting for his wife to land at Washington Dulles International Airport when terrorists take over the air traffic control system. He must stop the terrorists before his wife’s plane and several other incoming flights that are circling the airport run out of fuel and crash. During the night, McClane must also contend with airport police and a military commander, none of whom want his assistance.

The film was preceded by Die Hard (1988) and followed by Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).

Outline

On Christmas Eve 1990, two years after the 1988 Nakatomi Tower Incident, Los Angeles police officer John McClane is waiting at Washington Dulles International Airport for his wife Holly to arrive from Los Angeles. Reporter Richard Thornburg, who exposed Holly’s identity to Hans Gruber in the Nakatomi Tower, is assigned a seat across the aisle from her. In the airport bar, McClane observes two men in Army fatigues behaving suspiciously and pursues them into the baggage area. After a shootout, McClane kills one man while the other escapes. Learning that the dead man is an American soldier believed to be killed in action while originally serving in Honduras, McClane relates the situation to airport police captain Carmine Lorenzo, who bluntly dismisses his concerns.

Former US Special Forces Colonel William Stuart and other former members of his unit establish a base in a church near Dulles. They hack into the air traffic control systems, sever communication with the planes, and deactivate the runway lights, leaving Dulles ATC powerless to land aircraft. Their goal is to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord and dictator of Val Verde, who is being extradited to the United States to stand trial on drug trafficking charges. They demand a Boeing 747 cargo plane so they can escape to another country with Esperanza in tow, and warn the airport controllers not to try to restore control. With his wife on one of the planes circling above Washington, D.C. with too little fuel to be redirected, McClane prepares to fight the terrorists, allying himself with a janitor, Marvin, to gain larger access to the airport.

Dulles communications director Leslie Barnes heads to an unfinished antenna array with a SWAT team to re-establish communications with the planes but are ambushed by Stuart’s henchmen and the SWAT team is killed in the ensuing firefight. McClane rescues Barnes and kills Stuart’s men. Stuart retaliates by re-calibrating the instrument landing system and then impersonating air traffic controllers to crash a British jetliner, killing everyone on board. A US Army Special Forces team led by Major Grant is called in. By listening in on a two-way radio that was dropped by one of Stuart’s henchmen, McClane finds out that Esperanza, having killed his captors and now piloting the plane carrying him to Dulles, is landing.

With Marvin’s aid, McClane reaches the aircraft before Stuart’s henchmen. Trapping him in the cockpit, the mercenaries throw in grenades, but McClane escapes via the ejection seat seconds before the grenades detonate. Barnes helps McClane locate the mercenaries’ hideout, and they tell Grant and his team to raid the location, but the mercenaries escape on snowmobiles. McClane pursues them but is stunned to discover the mercenaries’ guns are loaded with blanks, concluding that the Special Forces team are in fact Stuart’s subordinates.

McClane demands Lorenzo intercept the Boeing 747 in which the mercenaries will escape; Lorenzo refuses to listen until McClane fires at the Captain with the blank gun, thus proving his story. Aboard Holly’s flight, a suspicious Thornburg is monitoring airport radio traffic and learns about the situation from a secret transmission to the circling planes from Barnes. He phones in a sensational and exaggerated take on what is happening, leading to panic and preventing the officers from reaching the escape plane, until Holly subdues Thornburg with a stun gun.

McClane hitches a ride on a news helicopter that drops him off on the wing of the taxiing mercenaries’ 747. He jams the left inboard aileron with his jacket, preventing the plane from taking off. Grant fights McClane, but is knocked off the wing and falls into an engine, killing him. Stuart succeeds in knocking McClane off the plane and removing McClane’s jacket, but fails to notice that McClane had opened the fuel hatch. McClane uses his cigarette lighter to ignite the trail of fuel which leads up to the jet, and causes it to explode, killing the mercenaries, Esperanza, and Stuart. The circling planes use the fire trail to help them land. As the other passengers on board are rescued, Holly and McClane happily embrace.

Cast

  • Bruce Willis as John McClane.
  • Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero McClane.
  • William Atherton as Richard “Dick” Thornburg.
  • Reginald VelJohnson as Sergeant Al Powell.
  • Franco Nero as General Ramon Esperanza.
  • William Sadler as Colonel Stuart.
  • John Amos as Major Grant.
  • Dennis Franz as Captain Carmine Lorenzo.
  • Art Evans as Leslie Barnes, Airport chief engineer.
  • Fred Dalton Thompson as Ed Trudeau, Air traffic flight director.
  • Tom Bower as Marvin.
  • Sheila McCarthy as Samantha “Sam” Coleman.

Additional cast members include Stuart’s henchmen: Don Harvey as Garber, John Costelloe as Sergeant Oswald Cochrane, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Miller, John Leguizamo as Burke, Robert Patrick as O’Reilly, Tom Verica as Kahn, Tony Ganios as Baker, Michael Cunningham as Sheldon, Peter Nelson as Thompson, Ken Baldwin as Mulkey, and Mark Boone Junior as Shockley. Robert Costanzo appears as Sgt. Vito Lorenzo, Carmine’s brother and towing supervisor. Patrick O’Neal appears as Telford, Major Grant’s radio operator. Colm Meaney appears as the pilot of the Windsor Airlines flight crashed through Stuart’s machinations.

Trivia

  • The screenplay was adapted from Walter Wager’s 1987 novel 58 Minutes.
    • The novel has the same plot but differs slightly: a cop must stop terrorists who take an airport hostage while his daughter’s plane circles overhead, and has 58 minutes to do so before the plane crashes.
    • Roderick Thorp, who wrote the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, upon which Die Hard was based, receives credit for creating “certain original characters”, although his name is misspelled onscreen as “Roderick Thorpe”.
  • Die Hard 2 was the first film to use digitally composited live-action footage with a traditional matte painting that had been photographed and scanned into a computer.
    • It was used for the last scene, which took place on a runway.
  • Of the film’s budget, $62-70 million, Bruce Willis was paid $7.5 million for reprising his role for the film, which grossed $240.2 million.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Renny Harlin.
  • Producer(s): Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, and Joel Silver.
  • Writer(s): Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson.
  • Music: Michael Kamen.
  • Cinematography: Oliver Wood.
  • Editor(s): Stuart Baird and Robert A. Ferretti.
  • Production: Gordon Company and Silver Pictures.
  • Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox.
  • Release Date: 04 July 1990.
  • Running Time: 124 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

 

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