The Rock (1996) – Michael Bay

Michael Bay finds his way back onto the 101 Action Movies to see before you die, and brings an impressive cast with him, in this, my favorite of his films.

With his usual pacing and editing, Bay makes a full-out action movies with a surprisingly sympathetic villain. Ed Harris plays General Hummel, who has lost too many men under his command to black ops, and wants the families and loved ones left behind taken care of by a government who owes these soldiers. After years of trying to play it by the book, he and a select group of former allies seize control of Alcatraz, the Rock, holding the tourists there hostage and threatening to launch a chemical attack on San Francisco.

The FBI sends in their own team, seen over by a SEAL in the form of Commander Anderson (Michael Biehn) with biochemist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) in tow. But seeing as no one has ‘officially’ ever escaped from Alcatraz, they forcibly recruit a political prisoner who no longer exists, former MI6 operative John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), the only one to ever escape the inescapable prison.

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Packed with an all-star cast including Tony Todd, David Morse (this man needs to be in more things!), Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, John Spencer, William Forsythe and Claire Forlani, the film starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up until the final moments of the film.

There are explosions, chases and gunfights aplenty as Mason and Goodspeed try to beat the clock before the island prison is targeted for an air strike. The film is a rollercoaster ride, and is still a lot of fun, with a driving score by Hans Zimmer highlighting the action (this and Gladiator are probably my favorite of Zimmer’s scores).

Yes, the film has Bay’s trademark, no shot longer than 5 seconds editing (actually I’ve heard for this film, the average shot length is 2.7 seconds!), but it is still a great film to watch. From the Humvee chase through San Francisco to the bath room massacre to the approaching air strike the film doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath.

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It’s fun to watch Connery and Cage banter as their relationship develops, but there’s never any doubt that Mason could snap Goodspeed in half if he felt like it. Mason is reserved cool, while Goodspeed is wired and a little intense, and it plays for the duo perfectly.

It’s raucous, loud, over-the-top, and it’s still a lot of fun, this was the first in a string of action films that Cage made, he followed it up with Con Air and then Face/Off, and as much as I enjoy the other two, and Face/Off is coming up on the list, this is probably my favorite of the Cage action trilogy.

One could blow this off as another Bay summer action film, but with the casts’ pedigree behind it, it’s definitely worth a look!

What’s your fave of the Cage action trilogy of the 90s?

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