The Rock

Since I’ve been slumming it lately and not watching that many films, I figured I’d watch an old favourite I haven’t seen for a while and deliver my thoughts via the magic of the thing colloquially known as “t3h interwebs!!11”

The Rock (1996)

As I said in my “Transformers” review, I’m a bit of a closet Michael Bay fan. It’s entirely the fault of “The Rock”. I remember seeing it in the late ’90s and being blown away. As the years have gone by I’ve learned to appreciate it more and more. I know the phrase “blockbuster with brains” is chucked about a lot (most recently used towards “The Dark Knight”) but I think the phrase perfectly captures what “The Rock” is all about.

“Got my first chemistry set when I was seven, blew my eyebrows off, we never saw the cat again, been into it ever since”

The basic plot (according to IMDB) is a group of U.S. marines, under command of a renegade general, take over Alcatraz and threaten the city of San Francisco with biological weapons. A chemical weapons specialist and the only man to have ever escaped from the Rock are the only ones who can prevent chaos. In terms of action films it’s pretty standard. It’s what they do will this framework that makes “The Rock” so special.

Firstly, we have great leads. Sean Connery is fantastic as Mason. He just brings an effortless charm to the character which you’d be hard pressed to get from any other seasoned actor. Nicolas Cage is very good as Stanley Goodspeed- thank God “The Rock” was made before he turned into a virtual parody of himself with increasingly ridiculous wigs. I think the tour de force of this film though is Ed Harris’ General Hummel. It’s so rare to have a villain with a sympathetic cause like Hummel does. You understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. He isn’t bent on World domination or anything like that, he just wants an injustice fixed.

“The Rock” could have easily been just another action film. Apart from Harris’ brilliant villain, I think the reason “The Rock” works is the interplay between Connery and Cage. They are another* great example of how to do the “chalk and cheese” buddy dynamic. The dialogue between them is great too, the “prom queen” bit is one of my all time favourite exchanges. In fact, the dialogue is good period. In action films, the dialogue is usually just a way to get from one explosion to another. In “The Rock” it is actually noteworthy – the below exchange, whilst not the best example, may give you an idea what I’m talking about:

“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.

General Hummel: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” -Thomas Jefferson.

John Mason: “Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious,” according to Oscar Wilde.

[Hummel strikes him, and he falls to his knees]

John Mason: Thank you for making my point.”

Doesn’t sound like your average action film exchange now, does it?

That’s just it. “The Rock” isn’t average by any stretch of the imagination. Any Michael Bay haters out there (and there are quite a few) I ask you one thing- watch “The Rock” and then make up your mind. There’s enough here to blow most of your arguments out of the water.

I really like the music too. Sure, it’s mostly military pomp when the soldiers are doing something bad-ass, but the softer themes really work. Nice to hear in a market crowded with films which have crappy rock serving as a soundtrack in most cases.

If I haven’t convinced you too see this film yet, I will leave you with this- this film has Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery pitted against Dr.Cox from “Scrubs” and a man with the squarest jaw in the World.

I can’t help but give this film full marks. It’s so damn enjoyable.

*see my “Men in Black” review

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