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Hans Gruber is portrayed as being highly intelligent and organized. In most situations throughout Die Hard, he is calm and in control. The attack on Nakatomi Plaza was obviously meticulously planned.

When Hans Gruber is looking for Mr. Takagi to interrogate him, he calmly walks around the room giving somewhat of a mini-biography of Takagi's life:

Where is Mr Takagi? Joseph Yashinobo Takagi,... ..born Kyoto, Family emigrated to San Pedro, California, 1939,... ..interned at Manzanar, 1942 to '43,... ..scholarship student, University of California,... ..1955. Law degree, Stanford, 1962. MBA, Harvard, 1970. President, Nakatomi Trading. Vice Chairman, Nakatomi Investment Group... Enough. And father... ..of five.

Hans Gruber knows pretty much everything about Mr. Takagi before he arrived at Nakatomi Plaza. Why didn't he know what Mr. Takagi looked like? Is there any evidence that Hans Gruber did know what Mr. Takagi looked like and he was just implementing some sort of scare tactic by doing this?

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Though the movie does not provide clear evidence about whether Hans had recognized Takagi on sight, I have always assumed that Hans had a good idea which man was Takagi, but had to confirm, hence the dialogue.

It seems likely that Hans would have looked at a picture (or pictures) of Takagi in advance -- but looking at a picture doesn't guarantee he would have easily recognized Takagi when meeting him for the first time, in a group.

In any case, the dialogue also happens to do a great job developing Hans's character: it reveals he is (1) European, (2) an intelligent speaker, (3) thorough in his preparation, and (4) confidently in charge of the current situation.

So from Hans's perspective, the dialogue is indeed a chilling and bad-ass way to introduce himself to everyone at the party he just crashed. And similarly, from the screenwriters' perspective, the dialogue is an ideal introduction of Hans to the audience.

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    Wow! Excellent point! It never occurred to me that that would be an excellent way to introduce us to Gruber's character! – steelersquirrel Nov 30 '16 at 20:41
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    @steelersquirrel Really good ways of introducing characters are always indirect and non-obvious. That's why it should NEVER occur to anyone watching a film that a character is being developed on – slebetman Dec 1 '16 at 7:11
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    A lot of europeans have difficulties confidently identifying people of east asien look when all they have is a photo, especially when he is portrait as being more of a right wing guy likely he would say "all asiens look the same to me" – PlasmaHH Dec 1 '16 at 10:34
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    @PlasmaHH: People looking the same to you is not (necessarily) connected to political views. I, personally, am extremely bad at telling people apart when I meet them out-of-context. (Two persons of roughly similar looks, one I know from work, one I know from my kid's school. If I meet one of them in the supermarket, I am hard pressed to correctly identify the person, because in context "tall, grey hair" is sufficient.) I know that I would have a hard time identifying a person from a photo, especially when in company with similar looking people (when "the asian guy" is not enough). – DevSolar Dec 5 '16 at 9:05
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    @jpmc26: Gruber is trying to convince the Nakatomi employees that he is powerful and in control. Peering at a photo of Takagi would not do this; walking around reciting Takagi's biography in a menacing tone of voice is much more effective. – Royal Canadian Bandit Dec 5 '16 at 15:33
54

This was clearly a scare tactic and a show of force and knowledge. If you notice in that scene, he walks next to every Asian man in the group except Takagi, which allows him to complete his biography before identifying his target.

Considering the precision with which the preceding events were carried out, indicating a vast knowledge of the target (including building schematics), it's unfathomable that they wouldn't have known what Takagi looked like.

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    Ohhh good point! Without this sounding the wrong way...I thought it was because of his last name that he assumed that he was Asian. – steelersquirrel Nov 30 '16 at 20:18
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One brief point in addition to the answers above: Die Hard takes place in 1987 or 1988, before social media, the web, 24 hour cable news, or even the desktop publishing revolution. For someone raised in the modern era it can be hard to imagine how scarce rich media information for a non-celebrity was in the late '80s. It's not only plausible but quite reasonable that Gruber could have gained the information he quotes (which reads to me like a bio from a stolen investor prospectus) without coming across a photo of Takagi.

There would have been three likely sources for such a picture: A magazine, a newspaper, or a tv broadcast. Each of these forms of exposure would have been strenuously avoided by a Japanese executive in that era. Even for an executive of a U.S. company--especially in the finance industry--publicity seeking was still frowned upon. As a young executive at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was nearly fired for allowing a photo of himself to appear in a magazine.

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    While I agree with the answers that the technique Hans uses is both to intimidate the crowd and inform the audience, the actual reason seems more like this answer. He just didn't know or didn't have a photo good enough to allow him to distinguish between several Japanese men. Does the source novel provide an answer? – Jason K Dec 1 '16 at 18:09
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    So you're telling me that they were able to obtain schematics for the building (they knew just which wires to cut when they first took over the lobby), yet never put someone in there to do remedial surveillance on Tagaki knowing full well which building and floor the company was on? This is something a Junior P.I. could dig up. – Johnny Bones Dec 1 '16 at 19:58
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    Just my 2 cents: While a Junior P.I. in 1988, could have access to a Camera & chemicals to process the photo himself, Gruber would have had to hire that P.I. from overseas, when only land lines existed, trusted the guy (or have him killed after) seems like a larger potential for mistakes to be made, just for an up to date photo. Schematics are stored and were even copied by international architecture firms for research, the details of Takagi also could have been obtained and sent via telegram, – BaneStar007 Dec 1 '16 at 23:30
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    so Gruber & team could have come in by plane the day before, with those details, but a photo, even sent by airmail in the 80s would take weeks, if not months to arrive. – BaneStar007 Dec 1 '16 at 23:30
  • They're in the Nakatomi building, owned by the Nakatomi Investment Group, of which Mr. Takagi is the vice-chairman. There could be an off-screen photo of him in the lobby or some other equally plausible scenario. – LegendaryDude Dec 2 '16 at 19:02
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Your conjecture is correct, it was a scare tactic. By getting a chance to show his encyclopedic knowledge of Takagi, Gruber is showing that his team are both there for a specific reason, and are well organised. They are not just some random thugs on an opportunistic crime.

1

Today, people put pictures of CEOs up on company websites or social media. Prior to the age of the internet, pictures where a rare and private thing. Having your picture be easy to find basically meant you where a celebrity.

All of the information he displayed could have been gathered without personally stalking Takagi.

At that date, it is perfectly reasonable that the only way to get a picture of Takagi would be to hire someone to stalk him; hire a PI. Such a PI could end up "showing their hand" in that they would have to ask about Takagi to other people. It is a risk.

Alternatively, they could create a fake business for which Takagi would meet them. But here again this risks exposure.

Learning about Takagi from public information is risk free. Get newspaper archives from the other side of the planet and read them. Never tell the librarian you are looking for information on Takagi in particular, and don't use logged newpaper rooms, and there is no paper trail connecting you to Takagi or Nakatomi.

Prior to the internet, pictures where distributed by hand or by newspapers and magazines. Getting a picture of something took a lot of effort.

The research that could have tipped off their target would be the blueprints for the building. That probably involved some risk; but the CEO of a large corporation might actually have private security looking for stalkers, while the architecture firm that has the blueprints, the municiple office of records, or the like is far less likely to have.

A core part of the plan was utter and complete surprise on the part of the target. Nothing that could tip off the target that wasn't key to the mission was permitted. Finding out who Takagi was was a solved problem; threaten to kill people who could not be him until he gives himself up. Actually stalking him to get a picture would be a risk.

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Given what Hans Gruber he wanted from Takagi (the password), this was a good tactic for establishing that he was in charge and in the know. It was a chilling way of telling, "Think twice about trying to bluff me." It is the same reason he mentions Takagi's suit. He also uses it to cow everyone else in the room.

But it was also a great way of sizing up Takagi. How far through his speech would Takagi let him get? How rattled would Takagi by the time he was done? Would Takagi identify himself at all?

Of course, Takagi was a badass. He was trying to size up Hans as well. When he comes forward, he does it completely unfazed. All the more reason to be upset when Hans shoots him.

But did Takagi actually know the password?

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    Good question! I have always wondered if Takagi knew the password! – steelersquirrel Dec 2 '16 at 23:27
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I'm in agreement with the others. Hans Gruber's monologue was simply a movie plot device to intimidate, assert control and scare the living daylights out of everyone in the room. Lest some half-drunken party reveler get the not-too-smart idea to try to take on a bunch of armed hostage takers. It shows who is really in charge, and it is not Mr Takagi anymore, and to show how well-prepared he was for any eventuality.

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