People don’t like Michael Bay for several reasons, and while his films may not boast the best stories, they sure bring us thrills and excitement. After 20 years, Bay’s The Rock is still as strong as ever. Fit as a good action thriller and showcasing numerous great actors throughout the film, The Rock is one of those films that I grew up with and the excitement and fun showed. It’s also one of only two films out of Michael Bay’s oeuvre that actually has a “Fresh Rating” on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s go back 20 years.
Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris are the main stars. Harris plays an angry ex-general who wants the memory of the dead to live on and be remembered. He knows how the Government has treated the brave soldiers who have spilled their blood on the battlefield, only to be forgotten by their leaders. Harris’ General Hummel wants to make a statement and does so in a drastic way that people are taken hostage while touring Alcatraz Island. He makes threats that he will launch a deadly chemical weapon into the heart of San Francisco unless some serious demands are met. Meanwhile, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), lives his boring uneventful life, before being interrupted when the FBI requests his help on what he thinks is a training exercise; it’s not. Then we bring Mason (Sean Connery) into the mix, the only man who has escaped the famous island prison. Together Mason and Goodspeed along with several Navy Seals are to penetrate the island the same way that Mason broke out so many years before. Problems ensue by the means of letting a man dangle from a roof, car crashes and a hectic car chase through the streets of San Francisco before anyone even hits the water to enter Alcatraz.
Once on the island, something crazy happens. It’s sad and even General Hummel is saddened too. Only Mason and Goodspeed remain and all bets are on them. “We have a 60 year convict and a lab rat, I’m telling you it’s over!” screams one of the FBI guys as we learn only two men remain. Yet they try their best to prevail, Goodspeed the guy who works in a glass jar and Mason, a British National who is a lethal killer and who has also been locked away in prison for the past three decades. “He’s angry, he’s lethal, he’s a trained killer. And he’s the only chance the people have!”
One of the tricks of the movies is that Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery have such good chemistry while ruminating through history and dealing with the deadly chemical once they find several of the missiles, to dealing with gunfire when the marines try to kill them. Harris remains quiet, patient, and restrained while the government takes it sweet time with transferring a lot of money to a bank account. He knows that nothing will change and only the threat of force will make someone listen. Turn to the last 25 minutes of the film and something again happens – mutiny has started on the island when several of the marines realized that their is no money waiting for them. Hummel doesn’t care about money, he only cares about the people who need to be remembered. The remainder of the marines take force and decide to go for launching the deadly rockets into the city without thinking of the end result. The action is fast, furious, and at times a little humorous, at least for me. It’s such a wild ride that by the time the end credits roll, I want to experience the fun once again.
After 20 years, it’s always nice to explore the films that we’ve seen and even read up about them. What went into the production, any notes about the filmmaking, or perhaps even some goofs. After some research, I found some interesting things that I would like to share with you.
- Three specific scenes in the film were later used in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The underwater sequences in which Navy Seals have to penetrate an oil rig is very similar to when the Seals are entering Alcatraz Island. The part where the Navy Seals are massacred in the showers was seen almost verbatim in a shower scene in Modern Warfare 2. Finally, a marine has to wave off fighter jets to not bomb D.C. using green flares, same way Goodspeed did in The Rock.
- Shot on location, Alcatraz Island. Plus, the premiere was held at the Prison Recreation Yard on the island.
- Some theories have speculated that Mason is actually an older version of James Bond, a fun nod to Connery’s 007 history.
The Rock turns 20 years on June 7, 2016. Honor its memory by popping in that in that Criterion Collection DVD (or better yet – that scrappy VHS copy). Grab a cold drink, some snacks, invite some friends over, and enjoy the delicious bombast. Thank you, Michael Bay for giving us something to cherish.