DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
May Contain Spoilers!
Back in 1996, the idea of a sympathetic villain in an action blockbuster such as this seemed to be something out of left field. Yet we have General Frank Hummel (Ed Harris) leading his troops into a top-secret weapons base to steal sixteen VX rockets, which if deployed, any one could take out an entire city with a vicious poisonous gas. But soon after, he makes his demands and they are to make amends by paying out millions to them which should have been paid to Black Ops soldiers, if the system was fairer.
But when all is said and done, Harris is a leading a group of mercenaries and terrorist who are holding the city of San Francisco to ransom, or are they…? Enter Stan Goodspeed (Nic Cage) and John Mason (Sean Connery). Cage is a chemical weapons expert sent to disarm the missiles and Connery is an ex S.A.S. officer, not too dissimilar to James Bond, who has been incarcerated for 30 years for not giving up a microfilm which contains all the U.S.’s most valuable secrets.
He is also the only person to have escaped from The Rock, or Alcatraz, which is where Harris has placed his missiles, as well has taken a tourist group hostage. The beauty of this, Michael Bay’s second feature following Bad Boys (1994), is that is so well paced. The opening sets up the VX missiles and that Harris is the bad guy, then we move on to an action scene in which we meet Cage and he has to defuse a bomb. Then The Rock is taken, the threat to San Francisco is set up and the we finally meet Connery.
But it’s here, about 30 minutes in, that the film takes a 25 minute detour into a new movie! Bay seems to dump The Rock plot and spends the next half hour establishing Mason and his past, as well as planting the seeds for Goodspeed and Mason’s partnership later.
But it works. Soon after the team is sent to The Rock and the film which we expected to watch is finally here. The beauty is that there are levels of complexity which set this apart from his contemporary counterparts. The terror is good and makes enough sense, the motives are both honourable and practical and the S.E.A.L. incursion of which Cage and Connery are a part, is played really well.
Plausibility is on their side even though this an action film to the extreme. It is pure fantasy and is in no way likely to happen and even if such a terror plot was to take place, the idea of freeing James Bond to help out a geek is about as plausible as sending a team of oil drillers into space… oh hang on… Armageddon…?
All in all, The Rock is a roller coaster ride of a movie, taking a layered plot, filled with enjoyable characters and situations and have fun with them. But the weight of the drama and threat is taken seriously but lightened by these characters in order for us not to look too hard at the details of what is actually going on. Because if we did, we wouldn’t survive the plot holes.