Die Hard 2 (1990) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • John McClane attempts to avert disaster as rogue military operatives seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

  • After the terrifying events in LA, John McClane (Willis) is about to go through it all again. A team of terrorists, led by Col. Stuart (Sadler) is holding the entire airport hostage. The terrorists are planning to rescue a drug lord from justice. In order to do so, they have seized control of all electrical equipment affecting all planes. With no runway lights available, all aircraft have to remain in the air, with fuel running low, McClane will need to be fast.

  • John McClane, the New York cop who took on single handed some men who took over the office building where his wife worked a year ago, is now at Dulles Airport waiting for his wife to arrive so they can spend Christmas with her family. But it turns out that a South American President who became a drug dealer after the US withdrew support, is arriving to be handed to American authorities. And McClane notices some men acting strangely so he follows them and they start shooting at him and he shoots back. McClane tries to talk to the Chief of the Airport police but the guy doesn't want to listen, so McClane gets the fingerprints of the man he killed and has his friend at the LAPD check it out. And he finds out that the man officially died two years ago. So McClane thinks the guy is part of a Black Op and tries to tell the Manager but before they could act on it, the Airport's system goes out. And that's when someone calls them and tells them that they've taken control of their system so they can't contact any of the planes who are arriving and give them landing instructions. And some of the planes have little fuel and among them is the one McClane's wife is on. McClane tries to stop them.

  • Once again, New York cop John McClane is in the wrong place at the wrong time - this time he's waiting for his wife's plane to arrive at Washington's Dulles Airport when he uncovers a plot to sabotage the airport's landing system. The criminals wish to free a drug baron being extradited to America for trial by holding the airport to ransom until they all safely escape on another plane. However, if they'd known that Holly McClane was on a flight home to the very airport they were hijacking, they would have picked another day.

  • John McClain is again trapped in a difficult situation. With his wife on an airplane circling Dulles Airport in Washington, terrorists take over the landing system and black out the airport. As the airport authorities seem to challenge his every move, John must defeat the terrorists and allow the planes to land before they run out of fuel.

  • John McClane, a Los Angeles police officer, is awaiting the arrival of his wife at Washington Airport. Also scheduled for this evening is a flight from South America which should bring a drug dealer back to the United States. A team of high tech gangsters manage to take over the Airport's radar facility. They want to free the drug dealer. But they have only one little problem: John McClane.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The story opens with a car being towed away from a restricted parking zone at Washington Dulles International Airport. Lt. John McClane (Bruce Willis) comes running out of the terminal -- it's his in-laws' car that is being written up. He argues futilely with the airport cop (Robert Costanzo) writing the ticket, but is interrupted when his beeper goes off. McClane is waiting for his wife Holly to arrive from Los Angeles. He heads into the terminal and asks a girl at the information kiosk for directions to the payphones. The woman points McClane toward the payphones, and then returns to watching a TV broadcast about snowstorms slamming the East Coast.

    The newscaster then turns over to a field correspondent at Escalon Airport in the Republic of Val Verde covering the other major developing story: the extradition of deposed dictator and General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), who is being transported to the United States to stand trial.

    As the newscast continues, the scene cuts to an airport hotel room. We see the room's occupant, retired Special Forces Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), practicing martial arts exercises, nude. The reporter on TV notes that two years ago, Esperanza led his country's military campaign against communist insurgents, financed by the United States, but recently, several high-ranking Pentagon officials have been charged with violating a congressional ban and supplying him with weapons. Mounting evidence that Esperanza violated the neutrality of neighboring countries also made Congress withhold funding, which he is accused of replacing by entering the market of drug trafficking. At that point, Stuart's watch goes off, and he pulls his coat out of the closet, then turns off the TV, aiming the remote like a gunfighter.

    In the terminal, McClane finds the payphones. His beeper goes off again, but he finds that all of the phones are busy, forcing him to wait.

    Upstairs, Colonel Stuart and his eleven men - Baker, Burke, Cochrane, Garber, Kahn, Miller, Mulkey, O'Reilly, Sheldon, Shockley, and Thompson - leave their rooms and march in formation down the hallway to the elevator. The camera settles on Stuart's face as the doors close on them.

    McClane finally manages to grab a phone and contacts Holly. Holly informs her husband that her flight will be landing about 30 minutes late. McClane, who is staying with Holly's parents, is careful to avoid telling Holly that their car has been towed. After Holly hangs up, she makes some small talk with the elderly woman sitting next to her. The woman shows Holly her taser which she says is much more effective for self-defense compared to pepper spray cans.

    As McClane leaves the payphone area, he collides with Colonel Stuart. The two exchange a brief glance. McClane momentarily recognizes Stuart's face, but cannot remember where he has seen him. He shrugs it off, and the two men continue on their separate ways. Stuart does a double take on McClane as he disappears into the crowd.

    The scene changes to the exterior of a small rundown church in a snowy field on the edge of the airport. A rusted pickup truck is parked by the shed, and a sign next to the front door announces that the church is being closed down and is to be converted into a day care center. The quiet tranquility of the landscape is disturbed when an airport service van pulls up and parks out front. Baker and Thompson climb out, disguised as utility workers, wearing orange uniforms, visibility vests, and hard hats, and each of them carrying a tool case.

    Inside, the church's custodian is having an early dinner and watching a newscast on Esperanza's extradition when Baker knocks on the door. The custodian answers, and Baker says that he and Thompson are checking their equipment and need to inspect the conduit box in the church's backyard. Although the unsuspecting custodian claims not to know of any utility lines, he lets them in. As Baker and Thompson enter, a plane takes off from a runway right next to the church.

    The custodian leads Baker and Thompson down the aisle of the church while musing about the impending closure of the church and the news broadcast continues in the background. He points out that he's been with the church for many years, and he feels like a piece of him is dying along with the church. Baker tells the custodian that he's right about that. The custodian turns, just as Baker suddenly draws a suppressed pistol and shoots him. Thompson turns off the TV, punches a three digit descrambler code into his radio, and reports to Stuart, "This is Buckwheat. The clubhouse is open." He and Baker then shift pews aside to create a larger space in the middle of the church.

    In the main terminal, the scene shows another TV broadcast on Esperanza's extradition from news reporter Samantha Coleman, reporting from inside the terminal. The camera pans to a phone booth, where Garber, Stuart's second-in-command, is finishing up a radio call with Stuart. He leaves the phone booth, and joins Miller and Cochrane at the bar. Garber relays from Stuart that everyone else is in position and ready. He asks Cochrane for a weather report, and Cochrane, who is listening in on a radio broadcast reports flurries all along the Virginia coast and a new storm front moving in, one much larger than the initial one currently affecting the area. Miller and Garber grin at the good news. Garber's grin quickly fades and he instructs them to continue their assignments. They synchronize watches, and then Miller picks up a gift-wrapped package and leaves.

    As Miller departs, he passes McClane, who is sitting a few tables away waiting for Holly's plane. As he idly smokes a cigarette, McClane's gaze happens to settle on Garber and Cochrane talking. When two airport cops walk into the bar, Cochrane instinctively removes his earbud and Garber slides his package further under the table, as if trying to hide it. McClane sees that the men are wearing combat books with their pant legs bloused over them. Then Cochrane stands up to leave, and McClane notices what looks like a pistol and shoulder holster under his jacket. Suspecting something is up, he goes over to the two airport cops to ask them to follow Cochrane, but backs off when he notices that one of them is the guy who just had his car towed.

    As McClane follows Cochrane through the crowded terminal, Samantha Coleman is interviewing two Justice Department officials who refuse to tell her why they're in the airport. She spots Colonel Stuart and Garber conversing and walking through the crowd on the other side of the terminal. Garber is informing Stuart that someone in personnel has fallen ill and there is a last-minute replacement on hand, and asks him about the security at the airport. Stuart assures him that security is like they figured: a joke. At this point, Coleman and her cameraman are suddenly in Stuart's face trying to ask him for a few words. Stuart tells her that she can have two, "fuck" and "you", and stalks off.

    McClane follows Cochrane and sees him go through a door leading to the luggage handling area. He asks an airport baggage handler to unlock the door and call for help, and weaves his way through the conveyor belts. He finds Miller and Cochrane appearing to be tampering with equipment. McClane interrupts them and informs them that they are in a restricted area. Miller claims that they work for the airline. Unconvinced, McClane asks to see identification. Miller and Cochrane suddenly whip out their pistols and open fire. McClane returns fire with his own pistol, but loses it when some luggage knocks his pistol onto another conveyor. He continues the fight against Miller with other tools, like golf clubs and an aerosol can. In the fight, Miller's two-way radio is knocked away. McClane manages to corner and kill Cochrane, crushing him in a baggage press and electrocuted, and tries to chase down Miller, who manages to get away when airport cops appear and draw their guns on McClane.

    While boarding her plane in LA, Holly sees that Richard Thornberg, the reporter from the Nakatomi incident a year before, is also on the plane and is being denied a first-class seat. Thornberg, seeing Holly, demands that he not be seated in the same passenger compartment as Holly because of a 50-yard restraining order he'd filed against her. The flight staff, recalling a few unfavorable investigative stories about the airline industry that Thornberg had produced, tell him firmly to sit down. When one of the flight attendants asks Holly about the restraining order, she says she knocked out two of Thornberg's teeth. The attendant bemusedly asks Holly if she'd like some champagne.

    In the terminal, we see Cochrane's body being zipped up in a body bag. McClane is handed back his pistol, and is appalled at the way the press is crawling all over this new story and asks an airport cop to take him up to their boss.

    As night falls on the church, Kahn and Burke are digging with pickaxes in the backyard. Baker is standing at the door, on sentry duty, and changed out of his utility worker disguise, when Miller comes out of the woods by himself, having run all the way after escaping from McClane. Baker is somewhat crestfallen when Miller offhandedly mentions that Cochrane is dead.

    Inside, Colonel Stuart is marking measurements on a map of the airport with a protractor when Miller arrives. Miller, shaken, reports that a cop killed Cochrane, and he barely got away alive. Stuart is indifferent learning that Cochrane has died, more concerned with whether or not Miller accomplished his goals, and Miller says yes. Stuart points out to him that although the damage is minimal, the penalty is severe, and he suddenly puts a pistol to Miller's forehead. He slowly pulls on the trigger, and Miller tenses up, expecting to have his head blown off.....only for the weapon to click on an empty chamber. Stuart puts his pistol away, but not before warning Miller that he won't be seeing an unloaded chamber the next time he hears of a failure.

    McClane, still believing something more serious is about to happen, tries to report his suspicions to airport police captain Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz), who refuses to believe him (more focused on the number of airport misconduct laws McClane has violated in his shootout with Cochrane and Miller) and throws him out of his office. Needing a plan, McClane sees Cochrane's body on the stretcher, and steals some paper and an ink pad from a rental car clerk. He catches up to the morgue attendants as they are preparing to load the body into the ambulance, and takes fingerprints from the right hand.

    Up in the skies, the F16 fighter jets escorting Esperanza's plane out of Val Verde turn away and leave the aircraft as they leave the danger area. The pilots converse in Spanish, estimating a 3½ hour flight time to the United States. In the back of the plane, Esperanza asks to have his leg shackles loosened, but the young soldier guarding him points out that he is not allowed to do that. Esperanza praises the guard's loyalty, and asks him to light his cigarette. He then checks his watch, and the action shifts back to the church, where Stuart is overseeing his men as they set up equipment. Kahn is installing a radar dish in the bell tower while Burke uses an acetylene torch to break into the conduit box, allowing them to patch into the airport's systems.

    McClane faxes the fingerprints to Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) over in Los Angeles. Powell agrees to run the prints through various databases to see if any hits come up.

    Up in the control tower, Trudeau (Fred Dalton Thompson), the airport's chief of operations, shows Chief Engineer Leslie Barnes (Art Evans) the weather radar to inform him of a larger storm front coming in from the north. Barnes decides that to allow him adequate time to plow the runways between landing aircraft, he will need to reduce landing frequencies. Trudeau agrees with Barnes's request, and orders the controllers to hail all of their planes and slow them down to avoid having any congestion. This will affect all aircraft heading in to Dulles, including Holly's plane.

    McClane gets the prints back from Powell and learns that the man he killed was named Sgt. Oswald Cochrane, an American adviser who operated in Honduras. Powell notes that Cochrane evidently faked his death, as he was presumed killed two years ago in a helicopter crash, and he was involved in a number of black bag operations during his army service. As McClane takes Cochrane's service record and heads for the tower, Samantha Coleman spots him and tries to speak with him, but much like Stuart, he brushes her off.

    Up in the tower, Trudeau is exasperated. He tells Barnes and Lorenzo that Washington National Airport has just been shut down because their runway is iced up, meaning Dulles will be heavily strained by being forced to accommodate both its own aircraft and National's flights, combined with the bad weather. Lorenzo is complaining to Trudeau about the press's obsession with the dead mercenary, and how the story has ended up on the evening newscasts, much worse since these reporters were already swarming over the Esperanza story. He admits that while he would like to eject all of the reporters from the airport, he also doesn't want to violate the First Amendment or risk the ACLU suing them into oblivion. At that point, McClane comes in to the tower, and gives Trudeau the report on Cochrane's military service, despite Lorenzo's objections. Trudeau believes McClane's suspicions that there is a situation going on in the airport.

    In the backyard of the church, Burke is breaking into the conduit box with a torch. He lifts up his face shield and radios to Stuart that their systems are ready, and they activate their equipment. The church, we see, has been transformed into a miniature version of the control tower's infrastructure.

    In the tower, McClane, Trudeau, Barnes and Lorenzo are startled when suddenly, all the runway and taxiway lights begin shutting off. The tower erupts in chaos as Barnes tries to figure out what is going on and how to resolve the problem, and controllers frantically work to get all of their aircraft back into the sky and out of danger.

    The henchmen sever cables for the ILS and approach control systems, and Trudeau has to get on the intercom to calm all of the controllers. He declares code red and gives specific instructions to what the incoming planes are to do: they are to shunt all aircraft to their alternate airports except for those that have started their approaches, who are to continue circling the airport, including Holly's aircraft.

    At this point, Stuart calls the tower on a phone patched into the utilities. He demands a cargo-converted 747 fully-fueled and available within an hour, and he will be landing Esperanza's aircraft on a runway of his choice, though he avoids mentioning Esperanza by name. Stuart makes it clear that he is serious, and warns of severe penalties if the airport tries to restore their systems. McClane tries to help, but Lorenzo ejects him from the tower, as well as Coleman, who has somehow managed to sneak in. As they are heading down the elevator, McClane escapes by climbing out the roof hatch. Coleman tries to ask him for a few words, but McClane tells her "Fuck off!" She admits that she's already heard this from Colonel Stuart. McClane realizes who his adversary is, and he continues his escape. When the elevator is greeted by two airport cops at the bottom, they wonder why Coleman is alone, and she shrugs, admitting that McClane is "claustrophobic".

    Up above, Barnes and his engineers try to figure out how to restore communication with the planes. They then realize that a new transmitter in an under-construction terminal might be functional. Trudeau and Lorenzo converse with Barnes, who explains that he can get the systems on the under-construction Annex Skywalk up and running within a half hour, and the planes won't need to change frequencies to communicate with them.

    McClane has made his way through the subterranean basement. He is suddenly drawn towards the sound of music playing on a phonograph, and finds himself in a small basement apartment. He is startled by the appearance of Marvin, an airport janitor. He gives McClane directions to the Annex Skywalk, which McClane realizes is a great location to carry out an ambush. To get to the Skywalk, McClane first must walk a narrow beam over one of the boilers. Once across, he crawls into a ventilation duct, while complaining about how he never gets to have a normal Christmas.

    Meanwhile, Trudeau gives a last message out to the circling planes to request that they circle until they can restore the systems. Every flight still listed on the departures and arrival boards change their statuses to DELAYED, much to the frustration of people waiting for arriving passengers.

    Barnes packs up his tool case, and a five man SWAT team comes to escort him to the Skywalk. As they walk, he complains to them that restoring communications with a SWAT escort wasn't part of his job description. Though the sergeant promises to watch Barnes's back, Barnes is not reassured.

    When he gets to the Skywalk, Barnes calls Trudeau to report in, as he and his escort team make their way down a moving sidewalk. At the other end of the sidewalk, lying in wait to ambush them, are O'Reilly, Sheldon, Shockley and Mulkey, disguised as painters and maintenance staff. O'Reilly is standing at the end of the moving sidewalk, while Shockley and Mulkey are stationed behind some other equipment lying on the ground, and Sheldon is stationed on the scaffolding and pretending to paint the ceiling. As the SWAT escorts are nearing the end of the sidewalk, O'Reilly presses the stop button, bringing the walkway to a sudden halt and nearly knocking Barnes and the five SWAT officers off their feet. The sergeant yells at O'Reilly, who then turns his back to them. The team continues walking, failing to see Mulkey, Shockley and Sheldon drawing submachine guns.

    As the SWAT officers come up on O'Reilly, the annoyed officer on point asks him what he looks like. O'Reilly suddenly turns around, a pistol in his right hand and a submachine gun in his left, and replies, "A sitting duck!" He promptly shoots the officer in the face with the pistol, then promptly dives for cover as the remaining SWAT officers raises their rifles and fire at him. Sheldon, Shockley, and Mulkey also open fire as well.

    As bullets fly, Barnes jumps over the sidewalk railing and dives for cover. He almost gives himself away when flying glass shards slice a nasty gash across his left arm. While Barnes hunkers down, Sheldon guns down a SWAT officer firing a shotgun at him. The third officer shoots Shockley, only for himself and another officer to be shot dead by Mulkey. The fifth and last officer fires a burst across the sidewalk railing. Sheldon turns his submachine gun and riddles the officer with bullets even as he tries to draw his backup pistol. The officer is thrown backwards through a plate glass pane and falls on his back. Barnes reaches and successfully grabs his tool case.

    Suddenly, the shooting ceases, and everything goes silent, except for the sound of the heating system. Barnes suddenly realizes that he is all alone, and looks around nervously, to see if anyone is hiding to ambush him. He fails to see O'Reilly creeping up behind him. Barnes doesn't know this until O'Reilly puts a pistol to his head.

    As O'Reilly prepares to pull the trigger, a ventilation grate over his head suddenly is pushed out. O'Reilly looks up and catches it on reflex. McClane appears, and fires his pistol at the disarmed O'Reilly until his bullets drill straight through the grate and through O'Reilly's body. As O'Reilly crumples dead, Sheldon and Mulkey open fire on McClane, who returns fire. During a brief lull, McClane jumps down, and Barnes uses this distraction to run for his life as McClane fires on Sheldon and Mulkey.

    McClane jumps over O'Reilly's body and dives onto the Skywalk, firing upwards at Sheldon. Mulkey reloads his submachine gun and fires on McClane. McClane rolls across the floor while firing at Mulkey, and is driven underneath Sheldon's scaffolding. Mulkey continues firing until his gun jams. Figuring out where Sheldon is, McClane reloads his pistol and begins shooting upwards through several wooden boards. Sheldon contorts himself to avoid McClane's bullets as he reloads, then fires downwards, driving McClane out into the open. McClane hurriedly pushes the metal scaffolding support, which eventually gives way. Sheldon continues shooting until he falls off the toppling scaffolding. He has a split second to scream as the platform lands on him and crushes him.

    McClane fires his pistol at Mulkey across the gallery until another part of the scaffolding falls on top of him and knocks his pistol onto the moving sidewalk. Mulkey sees his enemy immobilized. Furious, he ejects his submachine gun's magazine and jumps onto the sidewalk, cursing at McClane.

    At that point, McClane grabs a piece of fallen metal pipe to start up the moving sidewalk. Mulkey notices McClane's pistol lying on the ground just in front of him. He sprints towards it, hoping to use it to finish his foe off, but McClane reaches, grabs it first, and empties the remainder of his magazine into Mulkey at close range, and Mulkey crumples, dead.

    Barnes then frees McClane from the scaffolding pinning him down and stops the walkway in its tracks. As he prepares to get up to check on the antenna system, it suddenly explodes in a giant fireball, shattering the windows on the Skywalk. McClane and Barnes are unharmed.

    On the plane, Thornberg is trying to take a look out Holly's window, much to her discomfort, and he notices another plane not too far away. He insists that he has an obligation to show the world what the people want to know, but Holly is not above reminding him that he endangered her family.

    Back on the Skywalk, paramedics are removing the bodies of the SWAT officers killed by Stuart's team, and the henchmen killed by McClane. McClane is bandaging Barnes's arm while Barnes is on the phone with Trudeau. There is a distraction when McClane hears a garbled noise coming from Shockley's body. He rolls Shockley over and pulls out Shockley's radio, the source of the garbled radio chatter. The noise is Garber, trying to hail the Annex soldiers on the radio. Because the three digit code hasn't been punched in, his voice sounds scrambled. Garber turns to Stuart, who looks concerned. Barnes analyzes the radio, determining that with a three-digit descrambler code, and over a million possible combinations, it would have been easier if one of the men had punched the code in and tried to communicate with Stuart before they were shot.

    At the church, Stuart learns what has happened when Kahn comes down from the choir loft after overhearing Barnes's phone call. Stuart is not happy to find that his Annex team has been killed. He promptly calls up the tower and declares to the controllers that they will pay the penalty. McClane communicates through Barnes's tie-in phone to Stuart, and is rudely berated by Lorenzo, who is cut off when he notices from Trudeau's look that he has just betrayed McClane's identity. Stuart makes clear what he plans to show by rescuing Esperanza, then hangs up.

    Once he hangs up, Stuart turns to Thompson and asks him to find a flight that is low on fuel and will need priority landing. Thompson gives him the info slip for Windsor Airlines Flight 114, a Douglas DC-8 en route from London Heathrow Airport. Thompson then resets the ILS ground level to 200 feet below actual ground level. Stuart adapts a southern accent and impersonates an approach controller to contact the Windsor flight, and instructs them to come in for an ILS landing on Runway 29. McClane realizes what Stuart wants to do and runs over to the window. He grabs two pipes, a lighter and some rags. Barnes uses a painter's uniform to lower McClane to the ground, and McClane heads for the runway, wearing Barnes's firefighter's coat. On the plane, the pilots start going over their landing checklists.

    As they pass the outer marker beacon, the pilots restart communication with Stuart, who is using his normal voice to pose as the control tower. McClane lights the rags with his cigarette lighter, and uses the pipes as improvised torches and waves frantically to signal the incoming plane. Trudeau and Lorenzo in the tower spot him out on the runway, and realize what McClane is trying to do, though they take concern that he might be endangering himself.

    As the plane gets into range, McClane signals more frantically, but this proves useless as the aircraft flies overhead. The pilots panic when they see they are barreling towards the runway at a faster-than-normal descent rate, but before they have time to correct, the plane slams into the runway with such force that the landing gear collapses. Sparks produced by the underbelly as it slides down the runway cause the fumes in the ruptured tanks to ignite. The plane promptly explodes in a fireball, sending debris flying everywhere, instantly killing all 230 passengers and crew on board. Stuart then picks up the phone and coldly informs the tower that future lessons can be averted if the escape plane is available on time and the men in the tower don't interfere with Esperanza's aircraft.

    First responders race to the crash site and start a search-and-rescue operation, but it's a fruitless effort. We also see McClane walking through the burning wreckage, dazed and in a trance. He picks up a girl's doll, found near the remains of the landing gear. In the tower, we see a doctor treating the cut Barnes received on his arm during the Skywalk shootout. Trudeau comes up to him and orders him to look for a way to warn the planes that are still circling over Dulles about the new impending danger. Trudeau feels McClane's emotions and informs him that they are summoning a Special Forces unit to take out Stuart and his men.

    Stuart watches Samantha Coleman delivering a TV broadcast on his own plane crash, and crumples up the slip with the plane's information.

    The Army's Blue Light unit, headed by Major Grant (John Amos), arrives on the tarmac in two choppers. Up in the tower, Barnes and his engineers try to figure out how to communicate to their planes. When one of the engineers mentions that the headwinds are slamming aircraft on the outer marker, Barnes gets an idea, and uses the outer marker beacons frequency to address all circling aircraft. He does not know that Thornberg is listening in with his soundman's radio mike and is writing everything down.

    Unfortunately for McClane, the army and DOJ see him as a civilian and eject him from the briefing on the situation. He goes back to Marvin's basement apartment and asks for a way to the pilots' briefing room. However, he gets something better: just then, he overhears the beeping of a radio being punched into, and overhears a radio communication between Stuart and Garber. McClane moves a few charts beside to find that Marvin has acquired the radio Miller had lost during his fight with McClane in the baggage room.

    In the church, Stuart is briefing his henchmen. He is interrupted when Thompson informs him that Esperanza's plane is making contact. Stuart instructs the tower via phone not to interfere, then impersonates the control tower again to make contact with the plane. He instructs Esperanza's pilots to land the aircraft on a different runway from the one that they have been assigned to land on.

    In preparation for landing, Esperanza has lured his guard to him and strangles and kills him with the chain of his handcuffs, then unlocks his leg restraints with the guard's key. Just as the pilot is pointing out that Stuart is giving them orders contrary to their instructions, Esperanza sneaks into the cockpit and puts a pistol to the pilot's head, and orders him to acknowledge Stuart's instructions. After a moment's hesitation, the pilot does so. At that point, the co-pilot tries to grab for the gun. In the struggle, a bullet is discharged, which kills the copilot and ricochets, blowing out a window and causing a decompression. Esperanza then puts his pistol to the pilot's head, reassures him that landing will not be his problem, then shoots him. He then pulls out one of Stuart's special radios from behind the console and makes a mayday call, which Stuart intercepts. He redirects Esperanza to another runway that will give him a direct approach.

    Listening on the radio he'd gotten from Marvin, McClane makes his way to the runway in question and meets Esperanza's plane just as he touches down. McClane confronts Esperanza, but is then ambushed by Stuart's henchmen. McClane shoots Esperanza in the shoulder, and also kills Thompson. McClane hides in the cockpit, and Esperanza and Kahn use a pipe to barricade the door. Kahn then shoots up the cockpit door, which proves to be bulletproof. He helps Esperanza off the aircraft and Stuart runs over to check on him. Learning Esperanza's story of the mystery cop, Stuart realizes that it's McClane. He and his henchmen spray the cockpit with bullets in an attempt to give McClane "a military funeral". One bullet hits McClane in his hand. The mercenaries then throw hand grenades through the shattered windows of the cockpit. McClane escapes using the pilot's ejector seat just before the plane explodes. A parachute deploys, but Stuart and his men are forced to drive off in their SUV when they see crash tenders approaching from the terminal.

    Grant and Lorenzo are frustrated with McClane for trying to confront Esperanza and Stuart by himself, pointing out that Stuart might crash another plane in retaliation. Barnes pulls McClane aside and shows him some airport maps of underground utilities. This allows them to determine the possible location of where Stuart might be based.

    McClane and Barnes drive over to a suburban tract neighborhood on the edge of the airport. As they finish clearing several houses, they find the church. They notice Baker walking around the back of the church on sentry duty, trying to be casual. Barnes stays back to call Lorenzo while McClane advances to get a closer look. Unfortunately, just as he is getting close to the pickup truck parked out front, Holly tries calling him from an airphone, and his beeper goes off, giving McClane's position away. McClane manages to silence his beeper, but it is too late to stop Baker from suddenly attacking him. The fight continues while inside, Stuart tells Esperanza that the escape plane is being readied as they speak. At the same time, Grant's men are driving towards the church at speed. Grant tells his men they have a situation, and the team promptly don white ski masks and load blue-taped magazines into their weapons. After a brief brawl, Baker tries to draw a knife on McClane, but McClane shoves Baker away and stabs him in the eye with an icicle. Baker dies as Lorenzo's and Grant's troops arrive.

    Grant and his team advance on the church, breaking a trip wire that tips Stuart and his henchmen inside off. Stuart learns of the invaders from Garber, and all of the henchmen go to work disabling their ATC equipment and fitting it with explosives while also swapping red-taped magazines on their submachine guns for ones with blue tape. A shootout ensues between Grant's men and Stuart's men, and Stuart's men escape out back, where they climb onto snowmobiles to make their getaway. McClane notices them. He guns down Garber and steals his snowmobile and submachine gun, and also shoots Burke off his snowmobile as well, while Stuart, Esperanza, Kahn and Miller ride off into the woods.

    Stuart, Kahn and Miller set up at a hiding spot on the path to ambush McClane, and Stuart changes his blue-tape magazine for one with red-tape. McClane fires on the mercenaries, but none of his shots are lethal despite his excellent aim, and Stuart's men shoot the snowmobile, causing the gas tank to explode. McClane jumps off just as the snowmobile goes airborne and goes up in a fireball. McClane picks up the gun he'd fired and examines the magazine, suddenly shocked.

    Meanwhile, Thornberg manages to contact his news studio and sends a recording of Barnes's message to the planes through to the editors. Stuart meanwhile calls the tower and asks Trudeau to send a ground crew to check on the plane. Grant hears this and tells Stuart off via his radio tie-in to the tower phones. He and his troops then take off in their trucks while instructing Lorenzo to return to the airport with his men.

    As Thornberg prepares to go live, Grant's truck drives towards the hangar where Stuart's escape plane is being prepared. Some of the men crack an army joke on the last-minute replacement, Cpl. Telford (Patrick O'Neal), wondering what he was doing while they were in Grenada. Telford suddenly wishes that he was with them, and Grant says he wishes the same. He comments that if that were the truth, they "wouldn't have to do this". He promptly pulls out a knife and slits Telford's throat. As Telford keels over and dies, Grant pulls out a radio and communicates to "Eagle Nest" that his team is in position. We then see that "Eagle Nest" is Colonel Stuart.

    McClane, meanwhile, falls into Marvin's basement, dazed. Marvin rushes McClane to Lorenzo's office on his janitor's cart. McClane shows that Grant and Stuart are working together by firing at Lorenzo with Garber's weapon: the blue-taped magazines contain blank ammunition, which Grant and Stuart used to make their firefight look authentic. Convinced that Grant and Stuart are working together, Lorenzo calls for assembly of his men.

    Onboard Holly's plane, Thornberg goes live with the tape, and his broadcast is played on TVs throughout the airport. Mass panic erupts when the throngs of people in the terminal flee the airport, believing Thornberg when he says it's been seized by terrorists. McClane and Lorenzo's men find their troubles escalated while trying to move out towards the hangar. The car McClane and Lorenzo get into also contains Lorenzo's brother Vito - the officer who towed McClane's in-laws' car. Trudeau curses when he notices the mass panic on a surveillance camera from the tower. Holly, realizing what Thornberg is doing, grabs her seatmate's taser, sneaks into the bathroom, and zaps Thornberg, ending the broadcast.

    Grant and his troops arrive in the hangar and meet Esperanza, Stuart, Kahn and Miller. They get on the 747 they'd demanded and prepare for departure.

    McClane and Lorenzo have barely gone a few feet when their vehicle collides with a taxi in the chaos. McClane sees Samantha Coleman and her cameraman and asks to hitch a ride on their chopper, which catches up to the escape plane as it is taxiing. As McClane is being unloaded onto the wing, he overhears the pilots of Holly's plane radioing in that they are out of fuel and need to land as soon as possible. McClane blocks the ailerons on the plane's left wing with his firefighter's jacket, which Esperanza notices in the cockpit. Grant goes out to the wing to check on the wings, and puts up a fight with McClane, who overpowers him. Grant falls into the inboard engine on the wing and is ripped apart by the turbines. Stuart comes out and fights McClane, who manages to open a valve that causes fuel to leak from the tank. Stuart dumps McClane off the wing. As the plane takes off, McClane calmly pulls out a cigarette lighter and ignites the trail of leaking fuel. The fire runs down the runway and up into the air, blowing the plane up in a fireball.

    The pilots of Holly's plane see the trail and use it to make a successful landing, followed by the other planes in the air. Holly and McClane reunite. Lorenzo arrives and tears up McClane's parking ticket, since it's the holidays and all.

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