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I just watched the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance, and I feel like there’s a missing piece of the puzzle.

Near the end of the movie, we learn that the terrorists are staying near a truck stop in Canada called Nord des Lignes, but my question is, how did they manage to bring themselves and some $13 billion worth of gold past the US-Canadian border unnoticed?

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3 Answers 3

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Prior to 2009, there was no passport requirement to enter Canada from the US. Before this time, while many larger entries had checkpoints, there were plenty of ways to get around them.

This movie was released in 1995 and is approximately contemporary. With a little bit of planning, it would have been fairly easy for a stream of trucks carrying anything to move from the US to Canada.

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    This. I transited that border as a kid once in the late 1970's to visit Niagra Falls, and the only "check" I remember was asking if we had fruit. Never had a passport, and nobody got out of the car. All the talk in the US about border security is largely just about the US southern border, which shows you the whole topic is more about race and politics than actual security. The US Canada border is 5.5 thousand miles long, and historically nobody has cared much about "controlling" it.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 19, 2023 at 14:32
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    @T.E.D. - how in the world does that show that it's "more about race and politics than actual security"? Are canadians smuggling literal tonnes of cocaine across the border? Do you also think it's racism when Finaland is more concerned with its border towards Russia instead of the one towards Sweden? What kind of nonsense even is that?
    – Davor
    Dec 19, 2023 at 15:27
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    Die Hard with a Vengeance was 1995; not much after (and pre-2001) I was touring with a group of cyclists who, riding through the Eastern Townships, spent a day and a half on the U.S. side to ride part of Lake Champlain. The U.S. side (a building with a covered area for a couple of vehicles to pull up) was far more built up than the Canadian side (basically a shack), but we had way more difficulty communicating the concept that we were travelling by bicycle to the U.S. border guards than we had with ID. Pretty much anything from a recognized jurisdiction with a photo was fine.
    – DavidW
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:07
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    Many US-Canada border crossings even today have a sign that says "please head over to X in order to clear customs", often many km away. There is a US-Canada border crossing that is the line down the middle of a road, with houses on both sides. Prior to 9/11, crossing the border as a non-citizen resident would be trivial with no passports, and any ID check was more perfunctory than an ID check in a bar. During this period of nearly no security, Canada shipped megatonnes of illegal (in USA) cannabis to the USA.
    – Yakk
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:08
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    @T.E.D. I don't want to derail this discussion overmuch, but the general arguments about Mexico is people coming over the border "raping and robbing" and "taking our jobs", which leads to the common joke that this implies that people have a funny idea of what jobs are being taken. There's also some concern over drugs being smuggled. As far as I know, Canada doesn't have as prominent of a problem of drugs and undocumented workers crossing the border, so it's less a political hot potato. Dec 19, 2023 at 16:55
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how did they manage to bring themselves and some $13 billion worth of gold past the US-Canadian border unnoticed?

It's never explained, but we can take two things into account:

  1. the line between the 2 countries isn't that sealed a border.
  2. the aspirin bottle comes from the Canadian part of the border.

First, as a foreigner, when living in the US, I was able to cross the Canadian/US border twice in a day without my passport (I had forgotten it at the hotel). It was 1992. It seems to be much harder nowadays.

Second, the "Germans" probably came to the US from Canada, where they bought the aspirin. They chose a place where trucks going back and forth are so common that controls are less than ideal, more chances to go unoticed. It's not the last stop at the border going to Tijuana.

So it seems pretty easy for the terrorists to have customs papers ready just in case. Trucks have been stolen a while ago, giving time for some proper preparation. So people working and their trucks, in an area full of trucks. If you want to hide something, just put it where it's natural for it to be.

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    "the line between the 2 countries isn't that sealed a border" is a bit of an understatement, haha. The majority of the nearly 9,000 km (over 5,500 mile) border is completely open and unpatrolled, although thermal cameras and such are in use since 9/11. There are only a couple hundred official crossings, and a lot of them are very low-tech and unserious, especially compared to busy ones like the Peace Bridge. Dec 19, 2023 at 23:46
  • When and where did you enter Canada without a passport? Dec 21, 2023 at 20:20
  • @user1271772: From the USA (visa from Europe), 1992. I went to Canada and back to the USA on the same day.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 21, 2023 at 20:26
  • I suggest that you add to your answer that you were able to do that in 1992, so that no one thinks that this is still possible post-9/11. The movie that was mentioned in the question was also pre-9/11, so your anecdote is relevant to the answer, but might be misleading to anyone that doesn't know that the Canada/USA border is much more strict than you described. Dec 21, 2023 at 20:31
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In the official novelisation, based on a slightly earlier version of the screenplay, there's a slight time-jump of about a week between the scene with the aspirin bottle and the showdown. During that time the terrorists were able to melt down the bullion into something a little less conspicuous.

A long pause followed. McClane guessed that Simon was wondering how much he knew. He pulled out a small statue of the Empire State Building, the kind that all the New York souvenir stores carried, and scuffed it against the edge of the table. When he turned it over, the bottom of the statue gleamed with gold.

"The gold wasn't on that ship. You drove it where? North?" He'd had plenty of time to think about this. He gave Simon his best guess. "Canada?"

"Congratulations. Nova Scotia," Simon said tersely.

"Melted it into trinkets and shipped it out."

You can see this version of events in the alternative ending.

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    I really have a problem with "official (or not) novelisations", because of what they do with some version of the script, so my POV might be biased. But in the movie, they use dump trucks, a type of vehicule used to transport materials such as dirt, gravel, or demolition waste. That's why they can go unoticed in the tunnel. But they surely wouldn't be if they were loaded with goods such as small statues/souvenirs.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 19, 2023 at 7:59
  • @OldPadawan - In the book they've had time to transfer them over to a more appropriate vehicle. In the film they evidently wanted more Action-packed ending, and damn the continuity errors
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2023 at 9:30
  • So plagiarised directly from The Lavender Hill Mob.
    – BangBang
    Dec 19, 2023 at 20:33
  • @BangBang - There isn't a single scene in this movie that isn't cribbed directly from a better film.
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2023 at 21:01

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