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“Die Hard” Movie Technical Analysis Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Dec 26th, 2021


Die Hard 1988 was the first of a series of action movies directed by John Mc Tiernan. Die Hard was written from a novel by Roderick Thorp titled “Nothing Lasts Forever”. The movie was termed as a perfect box office piece but what stood striking about it was its ability to sustain itself in the market for long. Approximately $80 million was recovered in gross sales but its popularity in DVD and cable television made most reviews term the movie as a box office classic. Many attempts were made to make a replica of the movie in different formats like on a plane, train, bus, and so forth (Waller, 2005). This study will analyze the technical aspects of the film in terms of editing standards.

Development of Technique

Most notably, the movie used social engineering techniques to develop some of its action scenes. Social engineering is centered on distorting the actor’s moves to hoodwink the viewer by portraying an exaggerated outcome. This technique, therefore, hides the real action and depends on deception and tricking the audience to believe the screened actions are real. What majorly characterized the movie as a product of social engineering was the fact that some of its actors never met face to face. Despite this, some scenes showed them in the same location (Rosenfeld, 2003).

Social engineering can be described as a tool for the psychological manipulation of viewers’ minds. It was first developed by Kevin Mitnick who was initially a computer hacker but turned into a consultant. The technique was initially popular in social sciences but later picked up to be incorporated in computer applications (Rosenfeld, 2003). Most I.T professionals now use it for editing duties.

Technique Connection

Social engineering technique is closely connected to confidence trick and simple fraud. The only difference is that it is using higher technology and makes trickery much fancier. Other techniques such as diversion theft, pre-texting, phishing, baiting, and IVR have been closely associated with social engineering. This is because they are more or less associated with trickery and falsification of scenes.

Importance of Technique to Movies

Social engineering technique has not only been used in the Die Hard film but also other films as well. Such films include Independence Day, Hackers, War games, Star Wars among others (Cripps, 1993). It is also important to note that social technique is highly used when hacking in both real and fictional scenarios. Social engineering revolves around the human element of trust and is what film producers take advantage of in deceiving the viewers of the real situation.

Initially, this technique was majorly used to gain information in form of email, bank statements, PINs, and credit card statements among other personal details. It was majorly used to perpetrate fraud and steal software in ways deemed unimaginable to many (Rosenfeld, 2003). Today, the technique has evolved to create more fictional scenes in movies. As a result, technical experts have perfected the art of creating fictional scenes to look very real.

Creating Meaning

Social engineering tries to depict the real situation as much as possible. Other traditional forms of social engineering have been used to impersonate people to do things that would normally pass as out of the ordinary. In movies, social engineering is used to make the viewers think the situation is or should be the way it has been edited or screened. The technique is therefore used to create meaning by creating a scene that would have otherwise been impractical if it were acted in real life (Jowett, 1996).

Responses from the Viewer

Most of the time, the viewer would think the scene depicted from social engineering is phenomenal and very well planned out; though the reality might be to the contrary. The reactions of most viewers from scenes that have incorporated social engineering are breathtaking and very tactical (Ross, 2002).

Association of Technique to Specific Movements/Styles or Authors

Social engineering is connected to business, social and political environments because of its security threat. Businesses could suffer as a result of deception or trickery when carrying out business transactions. Politicians would suffer from misleading information which might affect political decisions. Social engineering involves many styles like diversion theft, pre-texting, phishing, baiting, and IVR or phone phishing (Nelmes, 2006).

Use of the Technique in Die Hard

Social engineering has been used in almost every movie constituting secret service agents or other security agents. In the movie Die Hard, most of the actors have been coaxed into playing roles that would eventually depict the desirable reaction. Bruce Willis is coaxed into acting like a hero to save the city against criminal acts of terrorists. Actors’ body moves have been edited well enough to signify expressions of anger, though, seriousness and other human expressions. For instance, the way focus is made on Bruce Willis’ eyes to signify intelligence and thought. Social engineering here taps on the mind of the viewer by over magnifying expressions to depict the desired outcome. Other bodily signals like twitching, tapping and twisting hair are socially engineered expressions evidenced on Bruce Willis’ wife to depict worry and anxiety. Explosions in the movie have also been engineered to look real. However, in a real sense, such explosions never happened. Scenes were therefore edited to look real and create a huge impact on the expected audience.


Social engineering is a tool used to magnify events to create a stronger impact on the viewers. Its applicability is very broad and used in many disciplines including social sciences and art. Most movies have therefore used this technique to hoodwink viewers into thinking some scenes and expressions are real. Actors have also been noted to have their roles overemphasized using this technique including sound effects and bodily expressions. Social engineering is therefore useful in creating a stronger impact on the viewers.


  1. Cripps, T. (1993). Making Movies Black: the Hollywood Message Movie from World War II to the Civil Rights Era. New York: Oxford University Press US.
  2. Jowett, G. (1996). Children and the Movies: Media Influence and the Payne Fund Controversy. Oxford: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Rosenfeld, A. (2003) Video Mining. New York: Springer.
  4. Ross, S. J. (2002). Movies and American Society. California: Wiley-Blackwell.
  5. Nelmes, J. (2006) An Introduction to Film Studies. London: Routledge.
  6. Waller, G. A. (2005). Film History. London: Taylor & Francis.
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