Top 365 Films – #067 – The Rock (1996)

Top 365 Films - The Rock - Sean Connery and Nicolas CageDIRECTED BY: Michael Bay

STARRING: Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, Gregory Sporleder, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Jim Maniaci, Greg Collins, Brendan Kelly, Steve Harris, Danny Nucci, Claire Forlani, Anthony Clark, Todd Louiso, Sam Whipple, David Bowe, John Laughlin, Ralph Peduto and Jim Caviezel

BUDGET: $75m

EARNED (Worldwide): $335m

AWARDS: None (Oscar Nomination for Best Sound)



A mild-mannered chemist and an ex-con must lead the counterstrike when a rogue group of military men, led by a renegade general, threaten a nerve gas attack from Alcatraz against San Francisco.


The Rock has us following a group of marine commandos, led by Brigadier General Frank Hummel, seize control of chemical weapons and take over Alcatraz, taking eighty-one tourists hostage. An FBI chemical warfare expert named Stanley Goodspeed and a former Alcatraz escapee named John Mason, must enter Alcatraz along with a SEAL team to take down the rocket threat before time runs out.


Say what you will about the man but there’s still no doubt in my mind that Michael Bay had directed one good film at least back in 1996….and that was The Rock. The trademark explosions and very stylised fast edits and pans galore to be found, surrounding a rather straight forward plot with various moments with absurdity and characters outside of the main stars are rather one note (though well performed) and yet it’s the performances from the cast that help elevate the dialogue on paper within a condensed area. We have the more complexed than your basic two-dimensional 90’s Hollywood action villain General Hummel, a man who acts insanely within the realms of his conviction of doing what he believes is the right thing to do and there’s no better villain than one that believes that he’s doing something horrible for the right reasons and Ed Harris gives the character such intensely and conviction in his beliefs and actions. There’s also Nicholas Cage as (oddly cast I might add) FBI’s chemical weapons specialist Stanley Goodspeed, a man trained for such a scenario to disarm the rockets in question though is completely out of his depth when it comes to handling violence. Nicholas Cage gives a really good performance as Goodspeed, with trademark Cageism’s in there and he shares great chemistry on screen with Sean Connery. Sean Connery is great as  Mason, a British spy who has been jailed for life without trial….and the only one to have escaped Alcatraz. He brings great presence, humour and a certain level of credibility to proceedings. Another thing to be said in the films favour…the score. It’s ridiculous how many times I end up humming the films theme almost instantly once I channel flick and see it appear on the small screen, it’s firmly cemented a long-term place in my brain. Nicely done Hans Zimmer.



FAVOURITE SCENE: The SEALs infiltrate Alcatraz and make their way into the shower room…only to find that they’re walking into an ambush. Intense and the sequence well shot, it’s the back and forth between Ed Harris and Michael Biehn that make the scene that much better.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘General Hummel: Did they bother to tell you who I am and why I’m doing this or are they just using you like they do everybody else?

John Mason: All I know is that you were big in Vietnam, I saw the highlights on television.

General Hummel: Then you probably have no idea what it means to lead some of the finest men on God’s earth into combat and then watch their memories get betrayed by their own fucking government.

John Mason: I don’t quite see how you cherish the memory of the dead by killing another million. And, this is not combat, it’s an act of lunacy, General Sir. Personally, I think you’re a fucking idiot.’

DID YOU KNOW?: Don Simpson was largely responsible for creating the critical Gen. Hummel character. Simpson watched a 60 Minutes (1993) segment about the U.S. government’s refusal to acknowledge soldiers who had died during covert overseas missions, and later read Col.David H. Hackworth’s memoirs which harshly criticized U.S. planning during the Vietnam War. He combined these elements into Hummel’s character and, as Jonathan Hensleigh described, created “a really compelling villain: a soldier with a noble end but, unfortunately, psychotic means.”

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