The Rock (1996) – Review

4 Stars

If you examine The Rock closely its clear to see director Michael Bay developing his cinematic storytelling visual style. Today, the “Bay style” is a much debated and somewhat derided technique that often veers into visual overkill. Still, he brings a highly kinetic energy to his projects and The Rock benefits from the strength of it’s three lead actors and Bay’s non-stop moving camera. Most television programs dealing with crime scene investigations or police procedurals have adopted the technique displayed so prominently here.

A group of renegade marine commandos steal a stockpile of chemical weapons and seize control over Alcatraz, with 81 tourists as hostages. Their leader General Hummel (Ed Harris),a disgruntled war hero, demands $100 million to be paid, as restitution to families of Marines who died in covert ops-or he will launch 15 rockets carrying deadly gas into San Francisco. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage) is a chemical weapons expert for the FBI who’s been assigned to partner with a former British Spy (Sean Connery), who once escaped from Alcatraz, to enter the former prison and stop the well-armed traitors from obliterating the San Francisco Bay Area with chemical weapons.

The Rock has an odd structure to its narrative format. After a blitzing opening fifteen minutes the film then gets bogged down before rebounding with a sharply edited car chase sequence to close out the first act and propel us into the virtually non-stop action of the film’s final 80 minutes. This is the film that made Nicholas Cage a viable, yet quirky, action hero in a big blockbuster. Connery is expectedly charming and suave playing an older rusty version of his James Bond persona. But it’s really Ed Harris sympathetic villain with understandable motives that gives this glossy thrill machine a beating heart.

Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris

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