Movie of the Day – The Rock
July 13, 2012 Leave a comment
This will be the only Michael Bay movie that you will see me praise, with the highest of regards. I am sure that means dick to a lot of people, but considering the shit he has turned out time and time again, The Rock will forever be, the best Michael Bay movie ever. In fact, I even own the Criterion Collection edition of this movie. If you aren’t familiar with Criterion Collection, here is a link to their site so you can judge the sort of films that they select as the best representation of cinema. The Rock is without a doubt, my one of my favorite action films of all time. And here’s why…
Nicolas Cage stars as Stanley Goodspeed, an FBI chemical weapons expert handed a unique assignment. Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris), an insane Marine Corps general, has taken 81 tourists hostage on the abandoned island prison of Alcatraz. He and his men are threatening to bomb San Francisco with deadly gas unless $100 million is paid in war reparations to the families of servicemen killed in covert operations. Goodspeed is teamed with former British spy John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), the only man ever to escape “The Rock,” as well as a Navy SEAL team. When their military escorts are ambushed, it’s up to odd couple Goodspeed and Mason to break into Alcatraz and stop Hummel. The Rock was the last film produced by Simpson, who died of a drug overdose before the film’s release. Solo, his partner Bruckheimer continued making the sort of glossy, frenetic films for which the duo was famed. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, and Michael Bay. Actually just having Connery, Cage and Harris in a movie is enough to get me to see it. I guess if you are going to make an action film, having Michael Bay and his bag of C-4 doesn’t hurt at all. But the one thing that all these elements needed to work together is a smart script and you can thank Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino for uncredited writing help. You can tell that they added some serious wit and smart dialogue to the film. It’s the little perfect storm of elements that end up creating a fun, fast paced, all-out action film that actually has some dimension to characters and moves at a wonderful pace.
Bay did a bang up job with casting in terms of Connery and Cage, the budding duo is an unlikely pair of hardened secret agent and lab rat with no discernible field skills in killing. The manic nature of Cage does shine through but offers a nice contrast to the more steeled and grizzled veteran that Connery plays. The dialogue between the two is funny, almost as good as the banter between the two leads in Bad Boys, but it comes out nicely here in this movie. It almost feels organic watching two people trying to find that trust footing to get through it all and they each have a well developed character to play off of. For me though, Ed Harris as General Hubble is amazing. At first I thought he would get the typical Bay treatment in one-dimensional glory, but he has depth and pathos to a conflicted character that must choose between terrible choices. Harris does what he does best and bring some gravitas to the cornered General as he wrestles between what is right and wrong.
I got to say, this is what an action movie is all about. How he lost his way, I will never know because The Rock is pretty much his greatest achievement. The film moves from plot setup, action beat, character introduction, action beat, exposition, action beat, resolution, and even more action. There is never a moment when this movie drags due to exposition, dialogue or scene changes. It moves at a brisk pace and doesn’t let up with the sensory overload. You have intense shootouts, slow motion death scenes with melodramatic music, unnecessary car chases and sharp dialogue. It makes you care about the characters and their actions, even for a villain like Hubble who is just pitch perfect in the movie. A lot of credit to Ed Harris though for that role. See it, quote it, love it, whatever. It’s a purist action film and it doesn’t get any better than that.