The Rock is a superb, thought-provoking action thriller. With a strong cast, and a intelligent plot, it stands right now as my favourite of all the summer action movies.
General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) is a highly decorated and honoured veteran who is disillusioned by the American governmental abuses toward the persons, and their families, who have given their lives in the defense of the United States of America against enemies both foreign and domestic. In order to force the government to make reparations to the families of those who have fallen, he steals 15 missiles filled with highly toxic VX5 gas. His plan: to use the weapons, and 81 hostages on the island of Alcatraz, as bartering tools to achieve his goals.
Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) is a chemical weapons expert with the FBI who is called in to help defuse the missiles when the SEAL team penetrates the tourist attraction. John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) is a man who does not exist, but is called in because of his unique knowledge of the Alcatraz prison. He is the only person to have ever successfully escaped the prison. When the SEAL team invades the rock, they are immediately butchered by Hummel's forces, thus leaving only Goodspeed and Mason to carry out the mission before the President orders the destruction of the Rock and every living thing on it. Interestingly enough, there's never any talk by the government about giving up the $100 million that Hummel demands. This seems to criticise a government who would trade life for saving face and a relatively small amount of money.
The acting by all the characters is brilliant. Each of the characters are developed in such a way that we get to see the emotional and compassionate sides before they are thrown into the action. Hummel is first shown at the grave of his deceased wife before he undertakes his mission. When he is about to take the Rock, he makes sure that the small children are off the island. Goodspeed is shown being concerned for the lives of his pregnant girlfriend and the unborn child. Mason, even after being incarcerated unjustly and without trial for 30 years, still cares about his daugher, whom he has never met: "you're the only evidence that I ever existed." To contrast this, the slimeball FBI director Womack (John Spencer) is depicted as heartless and self-centered.
The issue of conformity is something that struck me throughout the movie. The characters Hummel, Goodspeed, and Womack all play roles that seem be in line with their conditioning from serving in military/governmental roles. The exception, of course, is John Patrick Mason who is the rebel (and thus is punished for daring to be different). I think there are deep statements being made here not only about this issue, but about the intoxication of power and governmental atrocities.
This movie has everything: humour, action, and an intelligent plot. Definitely a must see for the summer.