Like "Rocky Balboa," John McClain is a simple man living in complicated times. Since we last saw him in 1995 with "Die Hard with a Vengeance," McClain is nearing retirement who is divorced with two adult children. His daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) prefers to use her mother's last name and is a graduate student at Rutgers University. While visiting his daughter in New Jersey, this New York cop is asked to pick up Matt Farrell (Justin Long) and escort him to Washington D.C. as a professional courtesy to the FBI.
McClain walks into a hornet's nest of domestic terror engineered by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a disgruntled former federal employee. Taking a page from the Osama Bin Laden School of Terrorism, Gabriel takes the security flaws and uses it to his full advantage. Harboring the collective fears of Hurricane Katrina, Gabriel unleashes mass phobia mixed with local annoyances of power outages and unreliable television coverage.
For all of the pseudo intellectual posturing of the "Die Hard" bad guys, the motives of the master villains are quite bland. John McClain seems to understand this and deflates the ego of the master villain, much to the delight of the audience. Much like the original "Die Hard," the action sequences contain surprises based on collateral damage and the laws of physics. Fox marketing has not revealed the best set pieces in their advertising campaign and they need to be commended for keeping the secret of the surprise.
Given the headlines of terrorism in Great Britain, a fictional depiction of one man defeating a terrorist cell could feel false. Yet the message is as relevant of when our founding fathers warned us that "Vigilance is the Price of Freedom."