The Rock (1996) Review

“Welcome to The Rock,” said John Mason as Stanley Goodspeed and a group of US Navy SEALs began filing past him in to the underground maze of Alcatraz Island, ready to save the city of San Diego from chemical WMDs.

The Rock is a 1996 film directed by Michael Bay before he began receiving an endless amount of money and CGI teams. The film begins by showing General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) and a rogue group of military personnel stealing chemical weapons from a military base, then taking Alcatrez Island and those on it hostage, missiles pointed at San Diego if they do not receive money and safe passage away. Hummel has gone this extreme route because of seeing his own men left for dead from Vietnam to Desert Storm with no compensation for their families and no respect. On the flip side, we see Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), the FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist, finding out his girlfriend is pregnant before being called in about the current terrorist situation for help. The Pentagon has decided to send a SEAL team to infiltrate Alcatrez to defuse the situation, however no one has successfully broken in to or out of the island facility… except for one man: Sean Connery. Er, John Mason. Mason is a former British SAS Captain who stole some of America’s most closely-guarded secrets, was later caught, and subsequently imprisoned without trial for three decades. He also has a daughter he would like to reconnect with living in the very city with weapons of mass destruction pointed at it.

If you haven’t seen this movie, you need to. It’s a true 90’s classic full of action, quips, and terrific performances from everyone involved. In true Bay form, some things explode with a little more vigor than necessary every now and then, but in a tense movie like this it works and makes it fun. In fact, most of the movie holds up very well twenty years later. There were a couple shots here and there that I thought, “That would be a no no now,” but overall I still really enjoyed it and felt it progressed fairly logically for a fun action movie, though you shouldn’t expect to think too hard or look for secret meanings in it.

One thing I think some people will find a little off-putting is how often ‘movie scenarios’ happen and what I mean by that is this: how likely is it that an antagonist is standing directly in front of a rocket listening to a pun, while the launch button is right by the protagonist? Or how likely is it that the FBI would give a man who has escaped from three maximum security prisons a hotel suite, haircut, food, etc. while he decides if he will help them? Some of the little decisions and moments in the movie will take you out of it, which is why I said don’t expect to think too much while watching it, but personally I didn’t think it ruined the movie. To some it totally will, but it’s all about your personal taste in movies.

Overall, The Rock is a solid movie. It’s not the greatest action film I’ve ever or will ever see but I do think those who haven’t should give it a try. The cast is seriously great and every character feels sufficiently fleshed out. The plot isn’t the most creative in the world, but it does what it needs to and it’s a fun romp for two hours. I really don’t think there’s a truly slow point in the film, which you should expect from Michael Bay, so if you want a solid pick for a movie night visit The Rock.

8/10

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