Right off the bat, McClane's showing his NYPD blues. The minute he runs from the hostage crisis, he starts figuring things out—even taking notes. He just can't help but know what he's doing.
GRUBER: Now, you can break the code.
THEO: You didn't bring me along for my charming personality.
Ain't that the truth. Sure, Theo may have his moments of comedic relief, but we imagine the constant humming of "Singing in the Rain" would grate on anyone's nerves. His point here is that he's got the knowhow to get the job done. Only he can open the vault.
MCCLANE [in writing]: Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.
What's McClane's game here? At first, it might seem a bit odd that he would reveal his existence to Hans and his henchmen in such a taunting way. But McClane's doing more than just poking the dragon. See, he knows that by revealing himself in this way, he can get some key info out of the terrorists as they discuss what to do next. And indeed, in the next shot, we see McClane, listening in from the top of the elevator. Clever, no?
GRUBER: All of you relax. This is a matter of inconvenient timing—that's all. Police action was inevitable, and, as it happens, necessary. So let them fumble about outside, and stay calm. This is simply the beginning.
Hmm. Here's the first inkling we get that Hans just might be smarter than anyone realizes. Plus, this tells us that Hans's true plan is known only to him, which is pretty smart. It's hard to get double-crossed when you're holding all the cards.
MCCLANE: Geronimo, motherf***er.
Sorry—was that McClane or MacGyver? You've got to hand it to him for his skills here. How to take out two baddies, dozens of floors below you when you're armed with nothing but C-4? Stick it on a desk chair, strap a computer to the top of it, and hurl it down an elevator shaft. Geronimo, indeed.
GRUBER: I have comrades in arms around the world languishing in prison. The American State Department enjoys rattling its saber for its own ends. Now it can rattle it for me. The following people are to be released from their captors. In Northern Ireland, the seven members of the New Provo Front. In Canada, the five imprisoned leaders of Liberté de Quebec. In Sri Lanka, the nine members of the Asian Dawn.
MCCLANE: What the f***?
We love McClane's reaction here. He can tell this is sheer nonsense—he just doesn't know why. It's not until the final showdown with Hans that he learns this was all about money. Props to Gruber for coming up with this clever—and distracting—cover for his real plan.
GRUBER: Please, God no. You're one of them, aren't you? You're one of them. Don't kill me, please!
Well, this was never part of the plan. When Gruber's checking on the detonators, he has no idea he's going to run into the fly in his ointment: one Mr. John McClane. Still, Gruber shows some rather impressive improv skills here, as he pretends to be an American hostage. As it turns out, he's pretty good on the fly, too.
GRUBER: Shoot the glass.
Smart move, Gruber. He knows McClane's barefoot, so a little broken glass is like cowboy cop kryptonite.
GRUBER: The circuits that cannot be cut are cut automatically in response to a terrorist incident. You asked for miracles, Theo. I give you the FBI.
Ah, so that was his plan all along? Most criminals don't want the FBI anywhere near their shenanigans, but for Gruber, they're essential. This guy has really covered every angle.
MCCLANE: What the f***? Jesus. Oh, John, what the f*** are you doing? How the f*** did you get into this s***?
You've gotta hand it to McClane here. He totally admits he has no idea what he's doing from one moment to the next—it's really all about making it from one moment to the next. He unleashes this litany of swear words when he's improvising his way off the soon-to-explode roof. His best option? Rappelling via fire hose. Yeah, because that sounds super safe.
MCCLANE: Why'd you have to nuke the whole building, Hans?
GRUBER: Well when you steal $600 you can just disappear. When you steal $600 million, they will find you, unless they think you're already dead.
Sure, Gruber's plan is impressive for its cleverness. But we also think he deserves some serious style points.