The Rock (film)

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The Rock

Film poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Produced byDon Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay byDavid Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
Mark Rosner
uncredited:
Quentin Tarantino[1]
Aaron Sorkin
Jonathan Hensleigh
Nicolas Cage
Story byDavid Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
StarringSean Connery
Nicolas Cage
Ed Harris
Michael Biehn
William Forsythe
David Morse
John Spencer
Vanessa Marcil
Music byNick Glennie-Smith
Hans Zimmer
Harry Gregson-Williams
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Editing byRichard Francis-Bruce
StudioHollywood Pictures
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date(s)
  • June 7, 1996 (1996-06-07)
Running time136 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
BudgetUS$75 million
Box office$335,062,320
 
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The Rock

Film poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Produced byDon Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay byDavid Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
Mark Rosner
uncredited:
Quentin Tarantino[1]
Aaron Sorkin
Jonathan Hensleigh
Nicolas Cage
Story byDavid Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
StarringSean Connery
Nicolas Cage
Ed Harris
Michael Biehn
William Forsythe
David Morse
John Spencer
Vanessa Marcil
Music byNick Glennie-Smith
Hans Zimmer
Harry Gregson-Williams
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Editing byRichard Francis-Bruce
StudioHollywood Pictures
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date(s)
  • June 7, 1996 (1996-06-07)
Running time136 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
BudgetUS$75 million
Box office$335,062,320

The Rock is a 1996 action film that primarily takes place on Alcatraz Island and in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was directed by Michael Bay, director of Bad Boys, and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. It was produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the producers of Top Gun and Crimson Tide. The film is dedicated to Simpson,[2] who died five months before its release. This was the first film on which Cage and Bruckheimer worked together.

Contents

Plot

A group of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines led by disenchanted Brigadier General Frank Hummel (Ed Harris) seize a stockpile of deadly VX gas–armed rockets from a heavily guarded military bunker, reluctantly leaving one of their men to die in the process, when a bead of the gas falls and breaks. The next day, Hummel and his men, along with more renegade Marines (Captains Frye and Darrow who have never previously served under Hummel) seize control of Alcatraz during a guided tour and take 81 tourists hostage in the prison cells. Hummel threatens to launch the stolen rockets against the population of San Francisco unless the government pays ransom and reparations to the families of Recon Marines, (using money the U.S. earned via illegal weapons sales) who died on illegal, clandestine missions under his command and whose deaths were not honored.

The Pentagon and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) develop a plan to retake the island with a U.S. Navy SEAL team, enlisting the bureau's top chemical weapons specialist, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), who initially thinks he's consulting the team, but soon learns that he has to accompany the SEALs due to his specialisation in chemical warfare. Goodspeed's confidence, already shaky as he received only minimal training in combat, is further tested when his fiancee Carla reveals that she is pregnant.

Recognizing that any surface approach will be seen by Hummel's men, FBI Director James Womack (John Spencer) is forced to turn to federal prisoner John Mason (Sean Connery), a former MI6 Agent and SAS Captain who has been illegally detained for decades by Womack and his predecessors. Mason is the only Alcatraz inmate ever to escape through the prison's uncharted tunnels, doing so in 1963, one year after imprisonment.

Although Goodspeed manages to convince Mason to cooperate with the FBI in return for a pardon from the U.S. Attorney General, Womack reneges on the deal. While in custody, Mason takes Womack hostage to escape, and takes a Hummer H1, while Goodspeed steals a Ferrari F355 and after the wild chase around the streets, Mason escapes. He leaves to see his estranged daughter Jade (Claire Forlani), who is the only proof that he exists. Goodspeed arrives and reveals to Jade that he is aiding the FBI. Womack initially only wants Mason to consult the SEALs, as he confides to Special Agent Ernest Paxton (William Forsythe) that he does not want Mason loose, but the FBI have no choice but to let Mason accompany the SEALs since he has committed the maps to memory.

The team infiltrates Alcatraz, through the underground tunnels with Mason's guidance. The SEALs however are surrounded and gunned down by Hummel's Marines in a shower room after SEAL Commander Anderson (Michael Biehn) refuses to surrender (the fight is provoked by Marine Captains Frye and Darrow, later revealed to be following Hummel only for the money instead of honor), leaving only Mason and Goodspeed alive when they remained in the tunnels while the SEALs confronted the Marines. Paxton plans to abort the mission, but Womack agrees to let them continue saying that Mason and Goodspeed are their last hope. Mason attempts to leave the prison, but Goodspeed manages to convince him to help him defuse the rockets, since Mason's daughter is at risk from the rockets.

Using Mason's knowledge of the prison, they quietly eliminate several small teams of Marines and disable 12 of the 15 rockets, until Hummel threatens over the loudspeaker to execute a hostage if the remaining "Navy SEALs" do not surrender and return the guidance chips from the rockets. Only Mason surrenders to Hummel, trying to buy Goodspeed some time. Though Goodspeed manages to disable another rocket, the Marines capture him shortly thereafter. With the incursion team lost, the military readies a backup plan: an air strike by F/A-18s with Thermite plasma, which will neutralize the poison gas but kill everyone on the island including the hostages.

As Mason uses his unique experience to escape from their cells, he reveals why he was held there for so many years — for stealing a microfilm of the U.S.'s most closely guarded secrets, including the Roswell UFO incident and the John F. Kennedy assassination (Womack revealed this to Paxton, earlier). Mason states he didn't return it, because he knew the FBI would "suicide" him, if he did. While Goodspeed and Mason search for the final two rockets, Hummel fires one of them but changes the coordinates at the last second causing the rocket to crash harmlessly out to sea. Facing Captains Frye and Darrow's (Gregory Sporleder and Tony Todd) frustration, Hummel explains that their bluff failed and that he refuses to harm innocent civilians. He orders them to exit Alcatraz with a few hostages and the remaining VX rockets to cover their retreat, while he'll stay, personally assuming blame. Realizing that they will not be paid their $1 million apiece, Frye and Darrow, along with Sergeant Crisp (Bokeem Woodbine), decide mutiny against Hummel and his second-in-command, Major Tom Baxter (David Morse).

With Mason and Goodspeed watching from afar, Crisp attempts to secure Hummel on Darrow's orders, but fails as the General is able to hold the SNCO at gunpoint. When Baxter is asked to take a side, he appears to side with Frye, Darrow and Crisp. The Major says what a privilege it was serving with Hummel, then fires at the three rogues. In the ensuing firefight, Crisp is killed by Hummel but Baxter is killed while Hummel is fatally wounded and pulled away by Mason. Darrow and Frye proceed with the plan to fire on San Francisco. With his last breath, Hummel tells Goodspeed the location of the last rocket. As the jets approach, Darrow is killed when Goodspeed fires the last disarmed rocket into him, launching the Marine outside where he falls and is impaled on a fencepost. Goodspeed stows the last gas pearls from the warhead and takes a loose one, but is then attacked by Frye who begins to strangle Goodspeed to death. Using the VX to defend himself, Goodspeed shoves the gas pearl into Frye's mouth and gives him an uppercut to the jaw, breaking the pearl and exposing both of them to the gas. Goodspeed injects himself in the heart with atropine as Frye dies from the VX gas. Goodspeed then lights green flares to signal that the threat is over, but only after one of the pilots fires, sending Goodspeed flying into the sea. The early detonation hits the back of the island and harms no one else.

Mason reappears to pull the unconscious Goodspeed to shore. When he recovers, Goodspeed tells Mason that Womack tore up his pardon, which Mason expected. When radioed, Goodspeed states that Mason is dead. Goodspeed tells Mason to go to his hotel room, take a change of clothes and $200 he stashed and run. Mason thanks Goodspeed, and gives him a note that holds the location of where he had stashed the microfilm. When the FBI arrives, Goodspeed is asked about Mason and says the man was "vaporized." Paxton simply grins, suspecting otherwise as he, too, sympathizes with Mason.

Goodspeed and his pregnant bride Carla (Vanessa Marcil) visit Fort Walton, Kansas, recovering the microfilm with a half-century of state secrets, including who actually killed John F. Kennedy.

Cast

Star Michael Biehn signing a copy of the film's DVD cover during an August 23, 2012 appearance at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

Actors Xander Berkeley, Raymond Cruz, David Marshall Grant, and Philip Baker Hall make uncredited appearances in the film.

Box office

Produced at a budget of US$75,000,000, the movie was a smash hit, grossing a total of $134,069,511 domestically and $200,993,110 internationally, for a worldwide total of $335,062,621.[3] Of the year 1996, it was the 7th highest home-grossing film in the U.S., and the 4th highest U.S. film worldwide.[4]

Production

Quentin Tarantino was an uncredited screenwriter on The Rock.[1] L.A.-based British screenwriting team Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were brought in at Connery's request to rewrite his lines, but ended up altering much of the film's dialogue. It was Nicolas Cage's idea that his character would not swear; his euphemisms include "gee whiz." Bay had worked closely with Ed Harris to develop his character as concretely as possible, later adding a sympathetic edge to Hummel.

There were tensions during shooting between director Michael Bay and the Walt Disney Company executives who were supervising the production. On the commentary track for the Criterion Collection DVD, Bay recalls a time when he was preparing to leave the set for a meeting with the executives when he was approached by Sean Connery in golfing attire. Connery, who also produced the film, asked Bay where he was going, and when Bay explained he had a meeting with the executives, Connery asked if he could accompany him. Bay complied and when he arrived in the conference room, the executives' jaws dropped when they saw Connery appear behind him. According to Bay, Connery then stood up for Bay and insisted that he was doing a good job and should be left alone.[citation needed]

The scene in which FBI director Womack is thrown off the balcony was filmed on location at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The filming led to numerous calls to the hotel by people who saw a man dangling from the balcony.[5]

In the scene in which Paxton demands to know from Womack who Mason is, Paxton utters, "I've heard all the cloak and dagger stories." This line was a direct reference to Forsythe's earlier film, Cloak & Dagger.

Censorship

In the original UK DVD release, the scene in which Connery throws a knife through a sentry's throat and says "you must never hesitate" to Cage was cut, although this scene was shown on British television.[6] Consequently, a later scene in which Connery says to Cage, "I'm rather glad you didn't hesitate too long" lost its impact on viewers who had not seen the first scene. Other cuts included the reduction of multiple gunshot impacts into Gamble's feet in the morgue down to a single hit; a close-up of his screaming face as the air conditioner falls onto him; a sound cut to Mason snapping a Marine's neck and two bloody gunshot wounds (to Hummel and Baxter), both near the end of the film.[6]

When the film premiered on German television (RTL), it was shown in two versions: the first version (starting at 8:15 pm) had most of its violence and gore cut, going so far as to suggest that some of the terrorists survived. The second version started at 1 am, and left all scenes intact. This scheme was repeated for the second viewing.

The film also received some censorship of profanity in its Asian releases (except Japan); the terms "fuck" and "Goddamn" are normally omitted or substituted. For instance, whenever Star Movies (a popular Asian movie channel) plays the film, Connery's line in which he says to Cage "winners go home and fuck the prom queen" is replaced with "winners go home and date the prom queen", while in another scene where Connery's character is described as a "son of a bitch" the line is replaced with "son of a Brit" in the censored cut.

Awards and recognition

The Rock won a number of minor awards, including 'Best On-Screen Duo' for Connery and Cage at the MTV Movie Awards. It was also nominated for the Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester) Academy Award.[7] It currently holds a "fresh" rating (67%) on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews,[8] making it Michael Bay's highest rated film and his only film labeled as "fresh".

The film was selected for a limited edition DVD release by the Criterion Collection, a distributor of primarily arthouse films it categorizes as "important classic and contemporary films" and "cinema at its finest". In an essay supporting the selection of The Rock, Roger Ebert, who was strongly critical of most of Bay's later films, gave the film a 3 1/2 out of four stars, calling it "an action picture that rises to the top of the genre because of a literate, witty screenplay and skilled craftsmanship in the direction and special effects."[9]

References

External links