moviebuff801: Time Capsule Reviews: The Rock (1996)

Posted: August 15, 2012 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

The newly-added “Time Capsule Reviews” section will focus on reviews of films that were released pre-2010. Every writer on this blog plans to contribute to this section at some point, and they get to choose the films they’d like to review, thus inviting a wide range of films. So, you just might get to see one of your favorites reviewed.

Here is the first in the Time Capsule Review series (a movie I feel strongly about, for what it is):

Release Date: June 7th, 1996

Running Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes

Written by: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook and Mark Rosner

Directed by: Michael Bay

Starring: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris

The ’80′s and ’90′s were the times when the action genre was at its peak in Hollywood. Back then, studios didn’t seem to be so cautious of releasing R-rated mainstream action movies, some of the most notable of these types of films being Speed in 1994, and both the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon franchises. All of those films were enjoyable, high-octane adrenaline-fueled action movies that gave us solid action sequences that weren’t afraid to show some bloodshed. The genre of the action film is undoubtedly my favorite and I’m always on the lookout for a well-made piece of escapism to pass the time. But, also, while an action film requires a good plot and relatable characters in order for us to truly become immersed in them, action movies can still be fun just because of their energy level. And there are very few action movies that are able to successfully combine the elements of a compelling story and pure fun, but the 1996 film The Rock can qualify as one of those few.

The Rock, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Michael Bay, has to be my favorite action movie of all time. Not the best, mind you, just my favorite.  Here is a movie that moves from one action scene to the next with uncontainable energy and glee, knowing full well never to take itself too seriously and to have fun first and foremost. The Rock, to me, is a showcase of all the things that made action movies from the 20th Century so memorable; you’ve got the larger-than-life threat, heroes that you are able to identify with, villains that are unmerciful and steadfast, and of course energy-fueled action. There is never a boring scene or a wasted scene for that matter because the film moves along at breakneck speed and during that time everything is handled efficiently, as the film reminds us that escapism is the most enjoyable form of entertainment in the film industry. Whereas most other action pictures would leave you exhausted as a result of relentless pacing, The Rock instead leaves you exhilerated.

The plot of the film, while recycled from other films of its kind, still works nonetheless. It starts out with the highly decorated Vietnam vet General Hummel (Ed Harris) frustrated and fed up with what happens to the members of a covert sqaudron of American soldiers who carry out classified missions all over the world. Hummel decides to steal a cache of military rockets, each containing lethal amounts of VX poison nerve gas and he threatens to use them against the San Francisco Bay area if his demands aren’t met. These demands are to deliver $100 million to the families of the men whose lives were lost during these secret missions that the government denied knowledge of. Hummel gives the window of 40 hours, otherwise he’ll launch the rockets. To further complicate matters, Hummel and his team of Marines storm the prison fortress Alcatraz, taking hostages in the process and stationing the armed rockets there.

In an attempt to neutralize the situation, the FBI calls in their best Chemical Weapons expert, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), who has the most knowledge of the gas. Meanwhile, another group of Military soldiers is assembled to try to penetrate Hummel’s defenses on Alcatraz. But in order to do that, they need the help of someone who’s familiar with the layout of the island and its fortress; someone who spent a lot of time there. That someone is former British intelligence officer John Mason (Sean Connery), who was imprisoned inside Alcatraz for many years as a maximum security prisoner and was the only man ever to successfully escape. In the end, what it all boils down to is Mason and Goodspeed teaming up with the good Marines to stop Hummel and destroy the guidance chips inside the rockets filled with poison gas. But whoever said that it would be easy?

One of the main reasons The Rock works so well is the chemistry between Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. Whenever the two of them trade dialogue on-screen, there is a certain spark between them that allows for some good humor. And Connery and Cage seem to be enjoying it just as much as we are. Plus, their characters give the film the human component that is required in every action movie, regardless of how fun the movie itself is. And let’s not discount Ed Harris as General Hummel; Hummel actually winds up being a pretty interesting character and towards the end of the film we discover that there is something more to his callous exterior. Harris, being the great actor that he is, is able to pull the roll off pretty nicely and because of that, we are able to buy his character. This film does surprisingly solid work with establishing relatable characters.

But now, let’s talk about the action. Each action sequence is brimming with energy, and as Michael Bay’s sophmore effort, the action is well-handled in the context of summer action films.  The cliches that are now commonplace in Michael Bay’s films are nowhere to be seen here, and if they are, they’re not so obvious. Another thing The Rock reminds us of is just how good Jerry Bruckheimer is at making such enjoyable action films that give the audience exactly what they desire. The Rock is a movie with both attitude and style, one whose action ranges from firefights and explosions to hand-to-hand combat and chases in both cars and on foot.

In a time when action films always seem to take the safe PG-13 approach, it’s always nice to go back and watch a slightly older film that pulls out all the stops. The Rock is one hell of an exciting movie with sensational action sequences, big laughs and effective suspense. It’s a movie that you do feel sort of silly for in the sense of being so engrossed by it, but nevertheless one that you are glad that you were. And it is also able to hold up to repeat viewings. The Rock is one wild ride.


  1. Tysoncarter says:

    Great write up!! Loved this movie :)

  2. Dan says:

    The stand off scene in the showers is one of my fave war-movie moments. One of those films that’s easy to return to for quick thrills.

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