Have there ever been actors as effortlessly cool as Sean Connery, or as eccentric as Nicolas Cage? That combination creates some special action alchemy in 1996's mega-hit, THE ROCK.
Nicolas Cage is nerdy, quirky chemist Stanley Goodspeed. Better with his pocket protector than a gun, Stanley is pulled into action when decorated General Francis Hummel and a group of well armed mercenaries take over the tourist island of Alcatraz.
Armed with a cache of very nasty chemical weapons, they threaten to kill everyone in San Francisco if their demands aren't met.
It seems the only way the good guys can get INTO Alcatraz to take out the bad guys is to hire the only man who ever escaped, John Patrick Mason (Connery).
Director Michael Bay (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor) never cuts corners when it comes to spectacular action scenes, but this is one of his best blends of thrills, action and comedy, without all the mindless noise and distraction in his unending Transformer series.
Ed Harris plays General Hummel at full tilt, and his demands are so just and right, that no one wants to argue with his motives, just his methods. It's a clever spin that blurs the good guys and the bad guys across lines.
Connery has never been better, oozing Bond like charm and grace one moment and beating the living hell out of people the next. He's got an amazing presence at his age, just as he did six years before this in "Hunt for Red October".
Cage is at his best, spewing hilarious ad-libbed lines like "What in the name of Zues's butthole!" with such Cage-like grace that you can't help but laugh out loud.
The car chase/cable car/Ferrari destruction scene is hilarious and explosive, the special forces entrance to Alcatraz is powerful and the final showdown with fighter jets approaching the island ready to blow it to hell and back are all action movie nirvana.
The music score by Hans Zimmer is only overpowered by the explosions, blasting your ears in all the right ways from the first frame to the enjoyable coda.
Connery also served as an executive producer and stood up for Bay when he was being threatened by producers for being behind schedule. Connery has said that he enjoyed making the film but was none too pleased filming the scene in which he and Cage plunge underwater as a massive fireball crosses over them. Without CGI, that dive and those flames are real.
The supporting cast is a who's who of character actors that flesh out the soldiers, mercenaries and political figures dealing with the attack. There's not a weak actor in the bunch.
Made for $75 million and grossing over $335 million globally, it was a massive hit in the summer of 1996. It's just as suspenseful, funny and enjoyable today as it was then, exploding with an A+ and landing a spot in my Top 100 favorite films.
Bay has talked about a sequel to take place today with Stanley and his wife playing off that final scene. That would be one sequel I'd line up to see.