I've seen and heard a lot of hate hurled towards Michael Bay over the years, granted, sometimes it's warranted, but not when it comes to The Rock. We start The Rock with the bitter and disenfranchised General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) as he says his goodbye's to his loved ones before what he knows will be an irreversible and irrevocable mission. General Hummel is a character that's played to perfection, managing to be electrifying and gripping in every single scene he's in. Yet he remains an understandably sympathetic character, even despite the fact that the General's threatening to release chemical weapons over San Francisco if certain demands of his are not met, he's not your typical one-note villain.
With General Hummel holed up in the fortified Alcatraz with some of the most lethal chemical weapons on the planet and the FBI Director, Womack (John Spencer) knows that they're going to need a man with inside knowledge of Alcatraz if they're to stand a chance of stopping Hummel. Meet the permanently incarcerated John Mason (Sean Connery) the one man who escaped the infamous prison. I like to think of him as an old James Bond, released from captivity for one last adventure and he plays the role of a reluctant hero with equal parts bravado and humor, balancing the both superbly. The nerdy Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) tags along as a consultant and one of the only men capable of disarming the chemical weapons that are under Hummel's control, and despite not being a field agent Goodspeed is subjected to a baptism by fire at the hands of a gang of determined marines turned mercenaries.
All the marines are memorable characters too, instead of being one dimensional cannon fodder, they're all given a bit of individual flavor. A lot of action movies make the mistake of using generic, forgettable and faceless bad guys, but The Rock is full of characters who look and feel like real and authentic bad-asses. The entire cast is rock solid (pun fully intended) and I love seeing Michael Biehn in military roles, the man delivers every time. I believe that a large reason for the success of The Rock lies in its perfect casting. There's not a single weak link in the cast whatsoever.
The plot is a simple and yet relatable one as General Hummel demands that America be held accountable for all the dead soldiers that the American government has chosen to 'forget' or 'disregard' over the years in the form of reparations that were illegally acquired by the government in the first place. Reparations that are to be paid to the families of the victims, with a little extra for himself and his soldiers of course.
General Hummel will probably go down as one of the most liked villains ever, as his motivations were never about himself or financial gain, and yes, he wanted money to escape, but that was never his primary motivation. General Hummel's primary motivation was to do right by the families of the men that died under his command when America disavowed their existence and refused to pay the families any remunerations whatsoever. So the sins of America's checkered past comes back to haunt them in a big way, and it's mighty hard, if not impossible to root against General Hummel when his motivations are so noble, slightly warped, but noble nonetheless.
With The Rock Michael Bay manages to balance a riveting, thrilling and stylistically bombastic action movie with a strong dose of tension, drama and an appropriate amount of levity from start to finish, and it all meshes together so very well into one remarkably compelling action movie. There's lots of quotable lines and memorable moments throughout the movie as well that are all delivered so smoothly ie without cheese. Very few action movies can manage such a delicate balancing act, but Michael Bay absolutely nails it with The Rock. Say what you will about Michael Bay, but to me The Rock proves Michael Bay is capable of greatness. I consider The Rock to be one of the greatest action movies of the 90s, possibly even of all time. Every time I watch it, I'm amazed at how well it holds up and continues to be a relevant action movie well past its due date, which is probably at least in-part thanks to the topical question of a country's soldiers and their treatment at the hands of a typically callous government. Great story, great action, great fun, great drama, great movie.
Written by - The Sentry - 05/07/2015