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The Rock (film)

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The Rock (film)

The Rock
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]
Aaron Sorkin (uncredited)
Story by David Weisberg
Douglas S. Cook
Starring Sean Connery
Nicolas Cage
Ed Harris
Michael Biehn
William Forsythe
John Spencer
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Hans Zimmer
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • 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, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. The film is dedicated to Simpson,[2] who died five months before its release. The film received generally favorable reviews from critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 69th Academy Awards.


A group of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines, led by disenchanted Brigadier General Frank Hummel and his adjutant Major Tom Baxter, seize a stockpile of deadly VX gas–armed M55 rockets. The next day, Hummel and his men seize control of Alcatraz Island and take several tourists hostage. Hummel threatens to launch the rockets against San Francisco unless the government pays $100 million from a military slush fund, which he will distribute to his men and the families of Recon Marines who died on clandestine missions under his command and whose deaths were not compensated.

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, Doctor Stanley Goodspeed. Goodspeed's confidence, already shaky as he is a "lab rat" with minimal combat training and experience, is further tested when his fiancée Carla reveals she is pregnant.

FBI director James Womack is forced to turn to federal prisoner John Mason, a 60-year-old British national who has been imprisoned without charges for three decades. Mason is the only Alcatraz inmate ever to escape the island, doing so in 1963 through uncharted underground tunnels.

While in custody at the Fairmont Hotel, Mason flees. He steals a Hummer H1 and Goodspeed pursues in a commandeered Ferrari F355, resulting in a chase through the streets. Mason seeks out his estranged daughter Jade; Goodspeed arrives with a team to re-arrest Mason, revealing to Jade that he is aiding the FBI.

Goodspeed, Mason, and the SEALs infiltrate Alcatraz. However, Hummel's Marines are alerted to their presence and ambush them in a shower room. All the SEALs are killed, leaving only Mason and Goodspeed alive. Mason sees his chance to escape custody and disarms Goodspeed, but Goodspeed convinces him to help defuse the rockets, since Mason's daughter is also at risk.

Mason and Goodspeed eliminate several teams of Marines and disable 12 of the 15 rockets. Hummel threatens to execute a hostage if they do not surrender and return the guidance chips from the rockets. Mason destroys the chips, then surrenders to Hummel, trying to reason with him as well as buy Goodspeed some time. Though Goodspeed disables another rocket, the Marines capture him. With the incursion team lost, the military initiates their backup plan: an air strike by F/A-18s with thermite plasma, which will neutralize the poison gas but kill everyone on the island.

Mason and Goodspeed escape, and Mason explains why he was held prisoner: he was a British SAS Captain who stole a microfilm containing details of the United States's most closely guarded secrets, refusing to give it up when captured because he knew he would be killed if he did. Hummel orders two of his men, Captain Frye and Darrow, to exit Alcatraz with a few hostages and the remaining rockets to cover their retreat, while he will assume blame. Realizing they will not be paid their $1 million apiece, Frye and Darrow mutiny against Hummel and Baxter, killing the latter and mortally wounding the former.

Darrow and Frye proceed with the plan to fire on San Francisco. While Mason deals with the remaining Marines, Goodspeed seeks out the last rocket, which Hummel reveals the location for with his dying breath. As the jets approach, Goodspeed kills both Darrow and Frye, disarming the rocket. He signals the jets that the threat is over.

Goodspeed tells Mason that Womack tore up his pardon, then informs his superiors that Mason was killed. Mason gives Goodspeed a note that holds the location of the microfilm. Some time later, Goodspeed and Carla recover the microfilm containing a half-century of state secrets, including who 'actually' killed John F. Kennedy.


Cast member Michael Biehn signing the cover of the film on DVD in 2012
  • 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 30 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 Capt. Hendrix, USMC Force Recon
  • Gregory Sporleder as Capt. Frye, USMC Force Recon
  • Tony Todd as Capt. Darrow, USMC Force Recon
  • Bokeem Woodbine as Gunnery Sgt. 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

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.

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 [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/A-18 pilot dropped the missiles on the prison.


Critical response

The Rock received generally positive reviews from film critics. The film holds a 66% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.6/10, based on 64 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

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]

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."[14]

In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films.[15] The Rock was listed at 74th place on this list.[16]


On July 11, 2003, a Bollywood remake of The Rock,[17] 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.[18]

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

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Peary, Gerald (August 1998). "Chronology". Quentin Tarantino Interviews.  
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1996-06-07). "FILM REVIEW;Break Into Alcatraz? Why Not?".  
  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".  
  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".  
  10. ^ "The Rock Reviews - Metacritic".  
  11. ^ McCarthy, Todd. "Review: ‘The Rock’".  
  12. ^ Corliss, Richard (June 10, 1996). "Cinema: Good Rockin': Finally, summer has a smart, almost human action movie".  
  13. ^ "The 69th Academy Awards (1997) Nominees and Winners".  
  14. ^ Roger Ebert (2001-03-12). "The Rock". The Criterion Collection. 
  15. ^ "The 100 best action movies".  
  16. ^ "The 100 best action movies: 80-71". Time Out. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Times of India". 
  18. ^ The Rock" at""". 
  19. ^ The Rock Soundtrack TheOST. Retrieved February 1, 2014

External links

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