The Rock (film)

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The Rock
The Rock (movie).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Bay
Produced by Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay by David Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
Mark Rosner
Quentin Tarantino (uncredited)[1]
Story by David Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
Starring Sean Connery
Nicolas Cage
Ed Harris
Michael Biehn
William Forsythe
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Hans Zimmer
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Hollywood Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s)
  • June 7, 1996 (1996-06-07)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million
Box office $335,062,621

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 Transformers), produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (producers of Top Gun and Crimson Tide) and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. 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. The film received generally favorable reviews from critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 69th Academy Awards. According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Rock is Michael Bay's highest rated film.


The movie opens with a high-ranking officer of the United States Marines, buried in thoughts, dons his uniform and visits a grave in the streaming rain, just as a soldier has been giving a military burial, mesmerizing 'he tried everything...Hoping that what he is about to do will elevate their thinking'. He dons the gravestone with a Medal of Honor, kissing it before walking away, expressing the wish 'not to think less of him', revealing the grave belonging to the officer's wife. That same evening,a group of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines led by the same officer, the disenchanted Brigadier General Frank Hummel (Ed Harris) seize a stockpile of deadly VX gas–armed M55 rockets from a heavily guarded US Navy bunker. When a bead of the gas falls and breaks in the process, they reluctantly leave one of their men to die on the scene. The next day, Hummel and his men, along with more renegade Marines led by Captains Frye (Gregory Sporleder) and Darrow (Tony Todd), 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 them $100 million from a military slush fund containing money from illegal arms sales, which he will distribute to his troops and the families of Recon Marines who died on clandestine missions under his command and whose deaths were not compensated: "These men died for their country, and they weren't even given a goddamn military burial. The situation is unacceptable."

The Pentagon and FBI develop a plan to retake the island with a U.S. Navy SEAL team, enlisting the FBI's top chemical weapons specialist, Dr Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), who initially thinks he is to be consulting the team, but soon learns that he has to accompany the SEALs due to his specialization in chemical warfare. Goodspeed's confidence, already shaky as he is a "lab rat" with minimal combat training and experience, is further tested when his fiancee Carla reveals that she is pregnant... And on her way to San Francisco.

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 60-year-old British national suspected of being an agent of MI-6 illegally spying in America, who has been illegally imprisoned without charges for three decades by Womack and his predecessors for reasons which Womack refuses to specify. Mason's usefulness is due to his being the only Alcatraz inmate ever to successfully escape the island, doing so in 1963 through the prison's uncharted underground tunnels (A fact carefully disavowed up until now).

Although Goodspeed manages to convince Mason to cooperate with the FBI in return for a pardon from the Attorney General, Womack privately reneges on the deal. While in custody at a hotel, after enjoying a warm shower and a haircut to be no longer "out of style"(which Goodspeed calls a 'Grunge Thing'), Mason takes Womack hostage and then flees. He steals a Hummer H1 and Goodspeed pursues in a commandeered Ferrari F355, resulting in a wild high speed chase through the streets. Mason seeks out his estranged daughter Jade (Claire Forlani), who is the only proof that he exists. Goodspeed soon arrives with a team to re-arrest Mason and reveals to Jade that her father is actually aiding the FBI (for which Mason is grateful). Womack is adamant that Mason should only consult the SEALs, confiding to Special Agent Ernest Paxton (William Forsythe) that he does not want Mason loose. However, as Mason has committed his route through the tunnels to memory, Womack has no choice but to let him accompany the SEALs.

The team, along with a highly nervous Goodspeed, successfully infiltrates Alcatraz through the underground tunnels with Mason's guidance. However, Hummel's Marines prepared for such an event, and are alerted to their presence and ambush them in a shower room from an elevated position. Hummel attempts to avoid bloodshed by persuading the team to surrender, but SEAL Commander Anderson (Michael Biehn) refuses to give this order and Captains Frye and Darrow provoke a gunfight, in which all the SEALs are killed, leaving only Mason and Goodspeed alive. Mason sees his chance to escape custody and easily disarms Goodspeed. However, Goodspeed convinces him to help defuse the rockets, since Mason's daughter is also at risk from them. Back on the mainland, Paxton demands to know exactly who Mason is. Womack finally concedes and reveals that Mason was a highly trained British MI6 agent and SAS Captain who stole a microfilm containing details of the US's most closely guarded secrets, including the Roswell UFO incident and the JFK assassination, refused to give it up when captured, and has thus been illegally held prisoner ever since.

Using Mason's knowledge of the prison and proficiency in combat, he and Goodspeed quietly eliminate several small teams of Marines and disable 12 of the 15 rockets. Hummel is so enraged that he threatens over the loudspeaker to execute a hostage if the remaining "Navy SEALs" do not surrender and return the guidance chips from the rockets. Mason surrenders to Hummel, trying to reason with him- and to buy Goodspeed some time. Though Goodspeed disables another rocket, the Marines capture him shortly thereafter. With the incursion team lost, the military gives a go ahead to their backup plan, which Hummel also knows about: an air strike by F/A-18s with Thermite plasma, which will neutralize the poison gas but also kill everyone on the island including the hostages.

After Mason releases them both from their cells, he explains to Goodspeed why he was held prisoner for so many years and adds that he did not return the microfilm because he knew the FBI would "suicide" him if he did. While Goodspeed and Mason search for the final two rockets, Hummel allows the launch and fires one of them but changes the coordinates at the last moment, causing it to crash harmlessly out to sea. Facing Frye and Darrow's frustration, Hummel explains that their bluff failed and that he is unwilling to harm innocent civilians, showing them as 'gutless'.. 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, Darrow and Sergeant Crisp (Bokeem Woodbine) wage mutiny against Hummel and his second-in-command and old friend, Major Tom Baxter (David Morse).

With Mason and Goodspeed watching from afar, Crisp attempts to secure Hummel on Darrow's orders, but Hummel draws his own gun and holds Crisp at gunpoint. Baxter appears to join the mutiny at first but then fires at the three rogues. Mason and Goodspeed fire through a window at the mutineers, forcing them to retreat. In the ensuing firefight, Crisp is killed by Hummel, Baxter is killed by Frye and Darrow while Darrow is wounded in the shoulder and Hummel is shot multiple times through the chest by Frye and Darrow. Goodspeed drags Hummel away and with his last breath, Hummel tells Goodspeed the location of the final rocket to be at the lower lighthouse. Darrow and Frye escape and proceed with the plan to fire on San Francisco. While Mason deals with the remaining Marines, Goodspeed seeks out the last rocket. As the jets approach, Darrow is killed when Goodspeed fires the last disarmed rocket into him and he is impaled on a fencepost. Goodspeed stows the last gas pearls from the warhead and takes a loose one and the microchip which directs it, but is then attacked by Frye who begins to strangle Goodspeed to death. Goodspeed shoves the VX gas pearl into Frye's mouth, 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 but harms no one else.

Mason reappears to pull the unconscious Goodspeed to shore, taunting him 'to be through rescuing him, amazed he made it past childhood'. When he recovers, Goodspeed tells Mason that Womack tore up his pardon, which does not surprise Mason. Goodspeed informs his superiors that Mason was killed, and tells Mason to take the clothes and $200 he stashed in his hotel room. Mason thanks Goodspeed, and gives him a note that holds the location of the hidden microfilm 'to forget Maui'. Womack arrives wanting to see Mason's body, but Goodspeed says it was "vaporized" by the thermite plasma (Paxton appears to guess the truth, but, disgusted with Womack and his illegal treatment of Mason, chooses to not reveal it). Some time later, Goodspeed and Carla (Vanessa Marcil) visit St. Michael's Church in Fort Walton, Kansas and recover the microfilm containing a half-century of state secrets, including who 'actually' killed John F. Kennedy as Goodspeed checks, while driving off followed by a furious pastor.


Star Michael Biehn signing a copy of the film's DVD cover during an August 23, 2012 appearance at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.
  • Sean Connery as retired SAS captain John Patrick Mason, a highly trained spy tasked with acquiring information on J. Edgar Hoover for the British, only to be compromised and sent to jail for 33 years. Mason is recruited to assist Dr. Stanley Goodspeed break into Alcatraz prison to disable poison-gas rockets aimed at the city.
  • Nicolas Cage as FBI special agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, a chemical weapons expert who lacks any major combat skills, forced to team up with SAS captain John Mason to break into Alcatraz prison to disable the poison-gas rockets aimed at the city.
  • Ed Harris as USMC Force Recon Brigadier General Francis X. "Frank" Hummel, a rogue military general who, disgusted with the military's lack of regard for fallen soldiers, steals 15 VX poison-equipped guided rockets to hold the city of San Francisco hostage unless the payment he demands for the soldiers' families are met.
  • John Spencer as FBI Director James Womack
  • David Morse as Major Tom Baxter, USMC Force Recon
  • William Forsythe as FBI Special Agent in Charge Ernest Paxton
  • Michael Biehn as Commander Anderson, USN SEAL
  • Vanessa Marcil as Carla Pestalozzi
  • John C. McGinley as Captain Hendrix, USMC Force Recon
  • Gregory Sporleder as Captain Frye, USMC Force Recon
  • Tony Todd as Captain Darrow, USMC Force Recon
  • Bokeem Woodbine as Gunnery Sergeant Crisp, USMC Force Recon
  • Jim Maniaci as Private Scarpetti, USMC Force Recon
  • Greg Collins as Private Gamble, USMC Force Recon
  • Brendan Kelly as Private Cox, USMC Force Recon
  • Steve Harris as Private McCoy, USMC Force Recon
  • Danny Nucci as Lieutenant Shephard, USN SEAL
  • Claire Forlani as Jade Angelou
  • Anthony Clark as Paul, the hotel barber
  • Todd Louiso as Marvin Isherwood
  • Sam Whipple as Larry Henderson
  • David Bowe as Dr Ling
  • John Laughlin as General Peterson
  • Ralph Peduto as Agent Hunt
  • Jim Caviezel as F/A-18 Pilot


At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger was to have played the role of Dr. Stanley Goodspeed. Schwarzenegger turned the role down because he did not like the script.[3]

Box office[edit]

Produced at a budget of $75,000,000, the film 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.[4] Of the year 1996, it was the seventh highest home-grossing film in the U.S., and the fourth highest-grossing U.S. film worldwide.[5]


Jonathan Hensleigh participated in writing the script, which became the subject of a dispute with the Writers Guild of America. In this case, the spec script (by David Weisberg and Douglas Cook) was reworked by several writers, but other than the original team, Mark Rosner was the only one granted official credit by guild arbitration. The rule is that the credited writing team must contribute 50% of the final script (effectively limiting credits to the screenplay's initial authors, plus one re-write team). Despite their work on the script, neither Hensleigh nor Aaron Sorkin was credited in the film. The director Michael Bay wrote an open letter of protest, in which he criticized the arbitration procedure as a "sham" and a "travesty". He said Hensleigh had worked closely with him on the movie and should have received screen credit.[6] Quentin Tarantino was also an uncredited screenwriter.[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 Walt Disney Studios 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.[7]

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


In the original UK DVD release, the scene in which Connery throws a knife through Scarpetti's throat and says "you must never hesitate" to Cage was cut, although this scene was shown on British television.[8] 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.[8]

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 film 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.

During the "green smoke" scene where Nicolas Cage disarms the last missile, Turner Network Television (TNT) and WVUE replace the words "Jesus Christ" with "Damn it" after the F/18 pilot dropped the missiles on the prison.


Critical response[edit]

The Rock received generally positive reviews from film critics. The film holds a 67% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.5/10, based on 49 reviews. The sites consensus says "For visceral thrills, it can't be beat. Just don't expect The Rock to engage your brain."[9] The film holds a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 18 reviews, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[10] To date, it is Michael Bay's highest rated film on the site and is the only film of his listed on there to have a fresh RT score.

Todd McCarthy of Variety gave the movie a positive review, commenting "The yarn has its share of gaping holes and jaw-dropping improbabilities, but director Michael Bay sweeps them all aside with his never-take-a-breath pacing."[11] Richard Corliss, writing for the Time expresses favorable opinions towards the film, saying "Slick, brutal and almost human, this is the team-spirit action movie Mission: Impossible should have been." [12]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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 Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester).[13] It currently holds a "fresh" rating (67%) on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews,[14] 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."[15]


On July 11, 2003, a Bollywood remake of The Rock,[16] Qayamat: City Under Threat, was released.


The soundtrack to The Rock was released on June 7, 1996. Nick Glennie-Smith, Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams were the principal composers, with additional music composed by Don Harper and Steven M. Stern.[17]

No. Title Artist Length
1. "Hummell Gets The Rockets"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith 6:26
2. "Rock House Jail"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith, Don Harper, Steven M. Stern 10:13
3. "Jade"   Nick Glennie-Smith 1:59
4. "In The Tunnels"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith, Harry Gregson-Williams, Don Harper, Steven M. Stern 8:40
5. "Mason's Walk - First Launch"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith, Harry Gregson-Williams 9:34
6. "Rocket Away"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith 14:12
7. "Fort Walton - Kansas"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith 1:37
8. "The Chase"   Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith, Harry Gregson-Williams, Don Harper 7:37
Total length:

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Peary, Gerald (August 1998). "Chronology". Quentin Tarantino Interviews. Conversations with Filmmakers Series. University Press of Mississippi. xix. ISBN 1-57806-050-8. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1996-06-07). "FILM REVIEW;Break Into Alcatraz? Why Not?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  3. ^ Arnold Schwarzenegger Interview / 22.01.13 / (San) Part 2 on YouTube
  4. ^ Brennan, Judy (1996-06-10). "The Rock Rolls to $23-Million Opening". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  5. ^ The Rock at Box Office Mojo
  6. ^ Welkos, Robert W. "'Cable,' 'Rock' in Disputes on Writing Credits". Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1996, p. 1.
  7. ^ Great Hotels. The Travel Channel
  8. ^ a b "Later DVDs merged into the Video Hits section". The Melon Farmers. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  9. ^ "The Rock - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. November 24, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Rock Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. June 3, 1996. Retrieved November 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ McCarthy, Todd. "Review: ‘The Rock’". Variety. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Corliss, Richard (June 10, 1996). "Cinema: Good Rockin': Finally, summer has a smart, almost human action movie". Time. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "The 69th Academy Awards (1997) Nominees and Winners". Oscars. 1997-03-24. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  14. ^ The Rock at Rotten Tomatoes
  15. ^ Roger Ebert (2001-03-12). "The Rock". The Criterion Collection. 
  16. ^ "Times of India". 
  17. ^ ""The Rock" at". 
  18. ^ The Rock Soundtrack TheOST. Retrieved February 1, 2014

External links[edit]