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Die Hard and the impossibility of the 'perfect Christmas'

  • 18 December 2023
Christmas is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not. If you’re anything like me, you’re both looking forward to the break and feeling like time’s slipping away as the days count down.

There never seems to be enough time in December. All the days leading up to Christmas are spent trying to get things done before the quiet January period, organising and attending end-of-year gatherings, or shopping for the Big Day itself.

Each person deals with that lack of time in different way. Some people become super-organised, have all their shopping done early, get every event in the calendar, and clear space to do what they need to do. For them, it’s about having control of their lives. Others aren’t so in control, tending to leave everything to the last minute. They tend to be looked down on by those who are more organised.

Recently, writer Ian Fortey on social media was musing about the well-known Christmas movie Die Hard (you can, of course, be forgiven for thinking Die Hard’s very much not a Christmas movie, but just come with me for a moment). He compared the film’s hero, John McLane, with the villain, Hans Gruber.

McLane is not in control of time – he arrives late to his wife’s office Christmas party, he’s constantly rushed, and has no idea how long it would take him to get anywhere. Meanwhile, Hans has his heist planned down to the second, with everything taking place on a pre-planned schedule. In order to keep with that schedule, all his men are wearing identical watches. Interestingly (in a deleted scene in the movie) those identical watches are what helps McLane identify Gruber as one of the villains.


'While it’s okay to do all those things you need to do to be prepared for Christmas, we also have to be prepared to have those plans disrupted. And sometimes those disruptions are a gift.'  

McLane disrupts Gruber’s schedule, all his plans are thwarted, and Gruber can’t cope with that. All of this is symbolised in Gruber’s last moments, when he’s hanging out of the building and holding onto McLane’s wife’s hand. McLane undoes his wife’s watch, and Gruber falls to his death. His obsession with controlling time kills him. 

One might move from this Die Hard exegesis to explore how it links in with some of the Biblical themes of Christmas. Certainly, at least for Christians, the arrival of Jesus is the greatest disrupter of time (and plans!) the world