When you’re offered the opportunity to watch one of the greatest ‘Christmas’ films of all time, set against the backdrop of one of Manchester’s most historic and interesting buildings, it’s very hard to say no. Thankfully this enthusiasm proved not to be in vain, as The Village Screen’s showing of Die Hard at the Victoria Baths was an absolute delight from start to finish.
Upon entering the Grade II-listed building, which has previously served as a filming location for the popular BBC TV series Peaky Blinders, you were greeted with a host of Manchester’s finest street food vendors, serving everything from hot dogs to gourmet mac and cheese. In addition to the food and drink offerings, the Ordsall Acappella Singers were also on hand to provide some Christmas musical offerings which further added to the festive cheer.
Whilst watching the film, seating was either in some surprisingly comfortable deck chairs within the building’s empty swimming pool, or on the balcony above. Due to the particularly chilly Manchester evening, it proved extremely advisable to be wearing multiple layers in addition to the much-needed blankets that were provided.
The film itself was an absolute treat. Despite being 30 years old this year, John McTiernan’s classic action thriller was still as adrenaline-fuelled as ever, and served as a reminder of the incredible acting talent of the late, great Alan Rickman in what was astonishingly his feature-film debut.
In addition to Rickman’s career-defining performance, Bruce Willis also shines as the protagonist John McClane. The heroic and seemingly indestructible New York cop has spawned an entire genre of action films, even as recently as this year’s Skyscraper, in which a lone hero fights against incredible odds.
During the course of the film, McTiernan expertly combines action, dark comedy, and even romance to create one of the ’80’s most beloved and oft-quoted films.
Obviously, due to the film’s age, some of the special effects do come across as dated, and the sound effects are almost laughable at times, but if anything this only adds to the film’s charm. In a world where there is almost a competition for who can make the most intelligent and realistic film, it was extremely refreshing to be able to just switch off and enjoy a ridiculously over-the-top classic action film.
Of course, it is almost impossible to mention Die Hard without engaging in the age-old debate over whether or not it is indeed a Christmas film. The naysayers point out that its original release date was in July, and that the plot has an almost comical dissociation from anything remotely Christmas-related. Yet ultimately, due to its setting on Christmas Eve and the numerous references to the festive season, I believe it should definitely be classed as a Christmas film.
Overall, wherever you watch Die Hard this Christmas you’re almost certainly going to have a good time. However, watching it from the swimming pool of a historical landmark surrounded by great music and food is something else and is highly recommended.