I thought I had reviewed this classic action movie from the 90s! I am now reviewing it!
Where the heck do I begin with another all time favourite of mine. I absolutely love The Rock, along with Face/Off and Con Air! All 90s action movies starring Nicolas Cage. I recently re-watched them all as they have all just been added to Amazon Prime! $%@& me!
“Hugely improbable and hugely entertaining action thriller about a mild-mannered scientist (Nicolas Cage) and a hardened ex-con (Sean Connery) who join Navy SEALs in an attempt to retake Alcatraz from terrorists.”
Release date: 1996 (United States)
Director: Michael Bay
Gross revenue: $335.10 million
Run time: 2 hours 16 minutes (finished about 2 hours 5 minutes)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris
A blockbuster movie set in the heart of San Francisco on the infamous ex prison island Alcatraz. The Rock is one of the most well known movies to be set on this island, and the movie and the plot, the acting, action scenes and generally overall theme including music, lighting, tension and drama are enough to make this one of the greatest movies of all time. The other movie set on Alcatraz which I really find amazing is the Clint Eastwood movie Escape from Alcatraz. (https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/alcatraz-escape).
Let us begin. We are introduce immediately to a rogue unit of military men who are seemingly breaking into a secure facility and stealing some potent vx poison gas rockets. They are doing this so that they can get some type of compensation for the fallen men of the military who have gone without a proper military burial and whose families have been left with nothing. This is quite true and unfortunately is still happening, the sad reality is that many courageous men, women and young people are giving their lives for their countries and are being disgraced by a government who won’t acknowledge them. This film takes that to the extreme, although cases of rogue soldiers and hostage situations are real and are happening as we speak.
Enter Stanley Goodspeed (an FBI chemical weapons specialist with a love of the Beatles and other classic music, note a reference to Elton John’s Rocket Man later on toward the end of the movie). He has been prepping for this moment throughout his career, and is thrust from the lab to the frontline by the FBI and the USA government to assist a cutting edge marine core unit who are assigned with entering Alcatraz, and disabling the vx poison gas rockets. Little does he know that the FBI is also seeking the help of John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), an ex Alcatraz inmate who previously escaped and knows the ins and outs of the island and is therefore the best person to assist the team. Mason has a history of being trained by British intelligence and knows a shed load of state secrets, and was held without trial for most of his life until he gave up intelligence that he had.
Goodspeed (God Speed) is soon getting acquainted with Mason in San Francisco as he is being lied to in order to assist the FBI. All the while Frank Hummel is leading the rogue soldiers on Alcatraz with Tom Baxter and giving the government 17 hours to pay up. Mason is cleaned up in a nice hotel and I must say this is the start of one hell of a big action sequence involving a car chase. Mason escapes said hotel after distracting the FBI agents by ordering room service (LOL) and is soon hijacking a Hummer and flooring it across that all so famous San Francisco landscape. Stanley Goodspeed, out of some kind of responsibility to do the right thing, and being aware of the serious threat from Alcatraz and the poison, is soon pursuing Mason in a yellow Ferrari. It’s literally all down hill and carnage and mayhem ensue as the FBI and police are in hot pursuit. They can’t exactly arrest Mason since they requested his help in the first place!
Mason ends up evading the law for a brief while to visit his daughter. Goodspeed however is still following and informs them of the location. I guess we can imagine how hard Mason had it being locked up away from his daughter for years, and Goodspeed does the honorable thing when the law turns up and tells Mason’s daugther that he is assisting with an important FBI matter. It’s got the humour in this movie that I love, as soon as Mason’s daughter has gone, Goodspeed is soon grilling Mason on his pain from the car chase.
It’s time for the team to start moving into Alcatraz. Informed of the mission. Mason soon learns Goodspeed is in fact a chemical weapons expert and remarks that he was lying about being a field agent, and that he shouldn’t get them fucking killed. Good writing. It’s an underwater start to enter the island. With an ex con to guide the team and Goodspeed to assist, things go wrong fairly quick. The rogue militants on the island have booby trapped every entrance and after triggering a sphere alarm system, whist trying to enter the bathroom/shower room of the island, the elite navy seal team are now at the mercy of the mercenaries. It’s a brutal massacre of every member of the team except Mason and Goodspeed, and from that point on, there is a cat and mouse pursuit and Hummel knows of their presence, yet cannot find them.
It is only when Mason tries to leave that Goodspeed is forced to explain the situation to Mason. Disappointed with the news and fearful for his daughter, Mason, maybe out of a some sort of moral righteousness, decides to stay and help. Given that it is over 2km back to shore, realistically how could he get back without being caught? Things are tense, things are dark and wet and the duo, although chalk and cheese, do make a good team. Acting is great and the pair have a chemistry that I found echoed that in Cages other movies like Con Air and Face/Off. It is not often that such pairings are found in modern movies, save for The Fast and the Furious. Although The Rock in an action movie, it is I believe about working together and forming friends for the greater good. So although they may not like each other, and this is evident to an extent, the two have to work together to defeat a threat greater than themselves. Without this cooperation, neither could survive.
Although the marines are determined to kill the innocent citizens of the city and are holding 81 hostages, they have a plan, and they expect that plan to be executed. So, when Mason and Goodspeed interrupt this plan, it starts to reveal cracks in General Hummels moral mindset. Mason understands that such a man would not kill the innocent, but Goodspeed is unsure. The marines themselves have doubts. Soon the pair are killing off the marines, derailing the plan and having an awesome shoot out in some old mine in the belly of Alcatraz. The vx gas rockets guidance chips are being destroyed and Hummel, short on time, is pressure to fire. He decides to launch, and at the last moment stops the rocket confirming that Mason was right about him. This leaves one rocket left, and plenty of crazy marines. It is also the time when Mason and Goodspeed witness the general being killed by his men as they attempt to overthrow him.
Left with no choice, the remaining marines are determined to launch the final rocket and our duo heroes are still battling to stop the rocket. Unfortunately due to the previous vx poison gas rocket launch, the president has now authorised a bombing strike on the island. Cage is fighting to disarm the rocket and counting down to the moment the jets are dropping bomb on him, it is pure anxiety. We want the hero to succeed and we want the world to be safer.
Cage disarms the rocket, and is blown into the water, Mason saves him. This is our ending, an unlikely pair who happen to save 81 hostages, after what seems to be a massive glorious action movie. All of this takes place within an hour in movie time, yet it feels like more, this is clever movie making. The crammed action does not give you chance for breath. There is not a dull moment. A bittersweet ending sees Mason leave and Goodspeed off with his wife and future child.
We all love that sort of feeling. A story worth telling, a movie worth watching, a feeling worth having.
This film made my childhood along with other Cage action classics. You have to watch this if you haven’t.
Rating : 5/5