100 Greatest Scenes Number 15: “Come out to the coast…”

Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

Out of all the iconic moments in Die Hard, one very quick, very simple scene sums up the best aspect of the action series – John McClane. The action is great, the villain is superb and the story actually makes some sense for an action movie but none of this would work without Bruce Willis’ wise-cracking, brave/stupid New York cop. He gets to be cool and bad-ass throughout the whole movie but there is something about this scene and the little dialogue he has with himself that seems to sum-up what makes the character so appealing perfectly.

Greatest Scene Number 15: Die Hard – “Come out to the Coast…”

The scene comes immediately after one of Die Hard’s more nerve-wracking set-pieces. John McClane has found himself falling down the lift shaft, trying desperately to hold on to each air vent opening. After lowering himself down using a precariously perched gun strap, it snaps and McClane falls, slamming off each wall as he does.

This doesn’t really count as the scene but is a good precursor as it shows the stakes and life-threatening moment the hero has just lived through. Battered, bruised and against-the-odds, McClane still survives, this time literally by fingertips.

It sums-up John McClane perfectly

Most people may be scared, angry or nervous. They could crawl into the air vent and take a breather, giving-up. Not McClane who crawls into the air-vent and flicks on his zip-lighter, delivering a classic Die Hard line with perfect Bruce Willis comic-timing; “Come out to the coast, we get together, have a few laughs.”

This line alone perfectly sums-up McClane. In the face of insurmountable odds he still has a smile and time for a joke, even if that joke is purely for him. It shows how unfazed he seems to be by everything, as he clambers through the vent, exclaiming “Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.”

It would be a joke they’d return to for later movies

This scene is made even greater by the fact that the more recent Die Hard movies are missing this. McClane isn’t funny anymore. Bruce Willis feels like he has been phoning-it in for at least the last Die Hard and it is because he doesn’t demonstrate the early John McClane charm that a small, inconsequential scene like this one shows so effectively.

Overall, the air-vent scene in Die Hard demonstrates all that we love about Bruce Willis as John McClane. It is a tiny scene but in it we get his dry humour, exasperation without fear and relentless will, as he clambers though the air-vent towards the next obstacle to face.

Where’s the wise-cracking McClane now?
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