Home Year 1996 The Rock (1996)

The Rock (1996)

Nicolas Cage's suggestion to take somebody's face off had not gone down well.
Nicolas Cage’s suggestion to take somebody’s face off had not gone down well.

Twitter Plot Summary: When a disgruntled army general takes hostages on Alcatraz island using poison gas, an agent and a former inmate head inside to stop them.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Thriller

Director: Michael Bay

Key Cast: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C McGinley, Gregory Sporleder, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Claire Forlani, Jim Caviezel

Five Point Summary:

1. Goodspeed is only different to every other FBI agent because he likes LP’s. That’s enough, I suppose.
2. So that car chase is just ripping off Bullitt…
3. Ahh, the flaming corridor of death. Of course.
4. Sean Connery’s leaving… now he’s coming back. Now he’s leaving again. Make yon mind up! 
5. Aha, I knew that thing they mentioned earlier involving needles was going to come up again.

The island of Alcatraz has always held a certain mystique to it. Its isolated location in the midst of San Francisco Bay, the fact that purportedly nobody ever escaped, and that Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise crashed a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey nearby in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. But wait! Former US army General Hummel has gone rogue, stolen a ridiculous amount of nerve gas, taken a group of hostages on Alcatraz island and threatens to release the nerve agent on an unsuspecting San Francisco.

Step up Sean Connery’s Mason, a former SAS agent who escaped from the island 30 years ago and has been secretly locked away by the US government for the entire intervening period. Rather implausibly, he’s given the opportunity to help them prevent the terrorist attack. Because naturally, after being locked up for 30 years he’s going to be really happy to help. He’s joined by FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed, a chemist who knows a lot about chemical weapons but has little experience in the field. Despite the angry acting outbursts of FBI Director Womack (and there’s something deliciously awesome about Sean Connery saying that name) both Mason and Goodspeed step into the breach, break into Alcatraz with a commando team led by Terminator/Aliens alumnus Michael Biehn, and attempt to stop the mercenaries responsible.

They all knew that, somewhere out there, Sean Connery was coming for them.
They all knew that, somewhere out there, Sean Connery was coming for them.

Ed Harris is compelling as General Hummel, the man responsible for taking over the island and deciding his plan needs some cool-looking green balls of death. His reasons for instigating the plan are plausible and not simply because he’a a generally villainous type. He has a code of honour and the only reason he’s proceeding with his plan is all because of the inadequacies he perceives in his own government. there’s not much more depth to him than this, but it’s more than we usually get from this kind of action template. The real success though is the interplay between Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. Their odd couple pairing of young desk-bound chemist and older action hero literally zings with one liners and surprisingly witty banter, which is lucky because otherwise we’d be left with a dessicated husk of a movie, one where the characters don’t entertain and we realise just how silly the whole thing is. Connery is dependably suave and cool as, essentially, an older embittered version of James Bond, and Nicolas Cage reigns his performance in to just the right side of crazy to embody the FBI agent who’s in over his head. The remaining cast are a veritable who’s who of lesser known character actors, in particular John C McGinley, Tony Todd and David Morse as members of Hummel’s mercenary team.

The Rock succeeds as an action film because its action sequences are nicely choreographed, the story’s not actually that bad, and the interaction between the characters – including the numerous humorous quips – are genuinely funny. It’s a formula that Michael Bay has tried to replicate in later films but patently failed to capture that same level of magic. Rather than just being an excuse for having big explosions whenever and wherever possible, the story is engaging despite being so ludicrously over the top that it could only have been a film from the orchestrator of Bay-hem himself. As a slice of action-related entertainment it’s polished and keeps you moving from one insane set-piece to the next, and the characters entertain despite being practically paper thin if you think about it for a moment. But then we’re not here for in-depth characterisation – not when big things can be blown up and people can shoot at each other. Check your brain at the door and go along for the ride – it’ll be well worth your time.

Favourite scene: Cage and Connery pay loving homage to the mine cart scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But with more fire and explosions.

Quote: “You enjoying this?”

“Well, it’s certainly more enjoyable than my average day… reading philosophy, avoiding gang rape in the washrooms… though, it’s less of a problem these days. Maybe I’m losing my sex appeal.”

Silly Moment: Sean Connery hatches an escape plan involving a penthouse suite, a gratuitous amount of room service, a haircut and a length of cord stolen from the bathroom. Oh, and then a Humvee.

Score: 4/5


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