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Live Free or Die Hard, (released as Die Hard 4.0 outside of North America), is a action film, and the fourth installment in the Die Hard series. The film was directed by Len Wiseman and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane, the protagonist of the first three films. Supporting cast members included Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Maggie Q. The storyline takes place 19 years after the first film, and finds McClane facing a gang of cyber terrorists. The film was based on the 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin. The film's North American release date was June 27, 2007.

After the project was stalled due to the September 11, 2001 attacks, production eventually began, and the film's title was switched 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 US rating was PG-13 rather than R. An unrated version of Live Free or Die Hard containing profanity and violence not included in the theatrical version was made available for the DVD release.

Live Free or Die Hard received generally positive reviews, earning a 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 69/100 from Metacritic. The film had total international box office gross receipts of $383.5 million. For the DVD release, 20th Century Fox pioneered a new kind of DRM, Digital Copy, 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.

Plot

A number of computer hackers, including Matthew "Matt" Farrell, upload programs they were paid to code to a woman named Mai. Soon, all of the unnamed hackers are killed by planted explosives. The next morning, Mai's boss and lover, Thomas Gabriel, gives orders to initiate his plot. The first phase involves taking control of the transportation grid (most particularly, traffic lights) and the stock market. The Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker responds by initiating a nationwide roundup of all known top hackers. Police officer John McClane is assigned to bring in Farrell, who lives in Camden, New Jerseymarker; his unexpected arrival stops Farrell from unknowingly triggering the explosives meant for him. Mai has assassins as backup, but McClane is able to protect Farrell and kill most of their attackers.

McClane drives Farrell to the FBI headquartersmarker in Washington, D.C.marker, where Farrell is questioned. FBI director Bowman is uninterested in his surmise: Farrell believes that the terrorists are mounting a "fire sale" attack, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the nation's computer-controlled infrastructure. McClane and Farrell are driven in a convoy to a secure building, but Gabriel and Mai are able to locate Farrell and divert the convoy to gunmen waiting in a helicopter. In the ensuing firefight, McClane manages to send a police car airborne over a tollbooth to destroy the helicopter.

As McClane and Farrell recover, Gabriel nationally televises a fake video of the United States Capitolmarker being bombed and demolished, setting off a public panic. Farrell believes that the power grid will be the next target, and directs McClane to a utility superstation in West Virginia, where they find Mai and her henchmen. McClane is able to kill all of them. When Gabriel tries to contact Mai, he reaches McClane instead, who taunts him with the news of his dead girlfriend. Farrell transmits Gabriel's image to the FBI, allowing them to identify their nemesis. Enraged, Gabriel redirects all the natural gas in nearby pipelines to the station, but McClane and Farrell escape just before the resulting explosion causes a power outage over most of the East Coast. Farrell suggests that they get help from his hacker friend Warlock.

Warlock, who has power generators ready in case of an outage, locates the program Farrell created for Gabriel. It is being used in a Social Security Administration building at Woodlawn, Maryland, an unlikely target. They discover that it is actually a front for a highly classified government facility which Gabriel instituted during his tenure at the National Security Agencymarker (NSA). In case of a total computer systems failure—such as the one Gabriel manufactured—every critical personal and financial record across the country is sent to servers there to create a backup. Gabriel's men take over the facility and start downloading a copy. Warlock is also able to explain Gabriel's motivation: a talented hacker, he was once a top expert for the NSA. However, he was fired and his reputation was tarnished when he tried to sound the alarm about America's vulnerability to cyber-warfare.

Gabriel detects Warlock's hack and speaks with him, McClane, and Farrell; he reveals to McClane that he has taken McClane's estranged daughter Lucy hostage. After Warlock traces Gabriel's location to Woodlawn, McClane and Farrel head there, where Farrell triggers an alarm in the facility to alert the FBI. As McClane deals with Gabriel's forces, Farrell manages to encrypt the downloaded data to block access to it, but is captured. Gabriel and his men then leave the facility, Farrell and Lucy in tow, before the FBI arrive. McClane hijacks Gabriel's semi and pursues. Gabriel hacks into the military's computers to deceive a United States Air Force F-35B Lightning II pilot into believing that McClane is a terrorist. The semi is wrecked, but McClane survives and tracks Gabriel to a nearby warehouse.

McClane dispatches all but one of Gabriel's men, but Gabriel still holds Lucy and Farrell hostage. Gabriel shoots McClane in the shoulder and makes McClane watch as he prepares to kill Lucy and Farrell. However, when Gabriel grinds his gun into McClane's wound, McClane fires it through his shoulder, killing Gabriel. The last henchman is shot by Farrell. Afterwards, to McClane's chagrin, Lucy and Farrell show interest in each other.

Cast



Production

Script and title

The film's plot is based on an earlier script entitled WW3.com by David Marconi, screenwriter of Enemy of the State. Using a Wired article entitled "A Farewell to Arms" by John Carlin, Marconi crafted a screenplay about a cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. 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.

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. 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. The title is based on the state motto of New Hampshiremarker, "Live Free or Die", which is attributed to a quote from General John Stark. International trailers use the Die Hard 4.0 title, as the film was released outside North America with that title. Early into the DVD commentary for the film, both Wiseman and Willis note a preference for Die Hard 4.0, and subtly mock the Live Free or Die Hard title.

Visual effects

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. 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." Companies such as Digital Dimension, The Orphanage, R!ot, Pixel Magic, and Amalgamated Pixels assisted in the visual effects of the film.

Digital Dimension worked on 200 visual effects shots in the film, 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. In the same sequence, John McClane propels a car into a hovering helicopter, which crashes to the ground. This was accomplished by first filming one take where an assassin with a rifle 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. The company also assisted in adding cars for traffic collisions and masses of people for evacuations from several government buildings.

The Orphanage developed a multi-level freeway interchange for use in one of the final scenes of the film by creating a digital environment and a long spiral ramp that was built in front of a bluescreen. 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. The nine-foot model was constructed from November 2006 through February 2007. 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.

Filming and injuries

Justin Long, Bruce Willis, and Len Wiseman speaking about an upcoming scene while filming in Baltimore.
Filming for Live Free or Die Hard started in downtown Baltimore, Maryland on September 23, 2006. The Social Security Datacenter exteriors were shot at Diamond Ranch High Schoolmarker in California. Eight different sets were built on a large soundstage for filming many scenes throughout the film. When recording the sound for the semi trailer used in one of the final scenes of the film, eighteen microphones were used to record the engine, tires, and damage to the vehicle. Post-production for the film only took sixteen weeks, when it was more common for similar films to use twenty-six weeks.
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. 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 Farrel to Bowman.

Throughout filming, between 200 and 250 stunt people were used. Bruce Willis' stunt double, Larry Rippenkroeger, was knocked unconscious when he fell twenty-five feet (8 metres) 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 picked up the tab at area hotels for Rippenkroeger's parents and visited him a number of times at the hospital.

Rating

The first three films in the Die Hard series were rated R by the MPAA. Live Free or Die Hard, however, sparked controversy because it was edited to obtain a PG-13 rating. In some cases, character dialogue was cut or muted 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." 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." Willis said he thought that viewers unaware that it was not an R-rated film would not suspect that, watching it, due to the level and intensity of the action, and the usage of some profanity, albeit less than the previous films. 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."

Reception

The film has a score of 81% with a certified "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 192 reviews with the consensus being it is "an efficient, action-packed summer popcorn flick" and a score of a generally favorable 69% on Metacritic based on 34 reviews. 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." 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 remarking, "Willis is in top form in his career-defining role." 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." 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 said that the film had a lack of memorable villains and referred to John McClane as "just a bald Terminator with better one-liners".

Live Free or Die Hard 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 franchise (not taking inflation into account). On its opening weekend Live Free or Die Hard made $33.3 million ($48.3 million counting Wednesday and Thursday). 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. It was the most successful film in the franchise.

Soundtrack

The score for Live Free or Die Hard, written by Marco Beltrami, was released on July 2, 2007 by Varese Sarabande (the previous Die Hard soundtracks' label), 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 passing in 2003. Other songs in the film include "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "I'm So Sick" by Flyleaf, "Goth (Remix)" by 615 Music and Craig Sharmat, "Cycler" by RipTide Music, and "War Zone" by Audiomachine.

Home media release

The Blu-ray and DVD were released on October 29, 2007, in the United Kingdom, on October 31 in Hungary, November 20 in the United States, and December 12 in Australia. The DVD topped rental and sales charts in its opening week of release in the United States and Canada. There is an unrated version and a theatrical version of the film. 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 number 10.

The DVD for the film was the first to include a Digital Copy of the film which could be played on a computer and could also be imported into several models of portable video players. (The Terminator 2: Judgment Day Extreme DVD included a high-definition Windows Media file of the film, but its playback was limited to Windows PCs only.) Mike Dunn, a president for 20th Century Fox, stated "The industry has sold nearly 12 million 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."

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