Plot: What’s it about?
After Nicolas Cage won his well-deserved Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, he was all of the sudden in great demand. From his roles like Trapped in Paradise, Honeymoon in Vegas and Guarding Tess, Cage showed another side of him that was a major factor in his Academy Award winning role. His next role was as Dr. Stanley Goodspeed in The Rock. This teamed him up with veteran actor (and Oscar winner) Sean Connery as well as an ensemble cast that included John C. McGinley, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn and David Morse to name just a few. Far from the depressing streets of Las Vegas, The Rock is yet another vehicle in the seemingly endless string of Jerry Bruckheimer films. All of his films are fast-paced, have unbelievable stunts, beautiful women and usually a few car chases…you know, stuff we all like.
Cage plays an FBI agent who specializes in chemical weapons, and for the most part has a boring life (as evidenced in one scene where an elaborate contraption is built using office products). He pays $600 for rare, out of print Beatles albums and is on the verge of marrying his fiance, Carla. But enough about all that. The Rock is finally available from Criterion who has managed to transport several of the supplements from the old LaserDisc and pack them on not one, but two DVD’s for our viewing pleasure! General Francis X. Hummell (Ed Harris) has lost his wife and is now free to act out a plan of revenge against the armed forces. Breaking into a secure area and making off with some deadly VX gas, he soon assembles a team of covert military operatives and takes eighty some odd people hostage on the island of Alcatraz. Now all of this may seem a bit over the top, but then again it is a Michael Bay movie, so we take it with a grain of salt and very tongue in cheek. It’s important to note that Hummell is not a crazed psycho who wants everything and everyone blown up. His motives are, in fact, simple. He wants proper burial services for his soldiers who were killed in battle (Desert Storm). The government has overlooked these deaths and now Hummell hopes to gain their attention by threatening to spread the stolen VX gas over the city of San Francisco. Cut to Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) who is enjoying a rather romantic evening with his fiance on top of a roof! Goodspeed thinks that he is being called on a training exercise, but soon learns that the situation is in fact very real. Now here’s the kicker…since the terrorists and hostages are on Alcatraz, they need a way to infiltrate the island without being seen or heard by the not so bad guys. John Mason (Sean Connerey) is an imprisoned English criminal who is believed to be the only person who has ever escaped from “The Rock” (Alcatraz). What Goodspeed has to do is convince Mason to do the job, but under the guise that the FBI will then release Mason upon completion of a job well done. Of course the FBI has no intention of doing this, and a problem soon arises. And what would a movie about a tactical assault be without the one and only Michael Biehn? Biehn’s Commander Anderson is head of the team that leads Goodspeed and Mason onto Alcatraz (Goodspeed is only along to disarm the VX gas, assuming the mission is a success). As we might expect, things do not go according to plan and it’s an all out war on anything on everything.
I don’t know what else to say about The Rock without giving away too much, but if you’re a fan of Bruckheimer type movies (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Armageddon, Gone in 60 Seconds, Bad Boys…the list goes on) then you should be right at home here. While the characters lack any depth, there is a plethora of notoriety and experience in the cast, and with this new Criterion edition, there are plenty of supplements to pass the time. The Rock is many people’s guilty pleasure, so you might as well embrace it and pick up a copy on Blu-ray.
Video: How does it look?
Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve actually sat down to watch “The Rock” and my memories of the Criterion DVD have long since faded. What we’re given here is a pretty good-looking 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer that has a few flaws, but for the most part is well worth the wait. Flesh tones seem right on track and I did notice an immediate increase in the detail; the pores in Cage’s face and the like. What struck me as being very noticeable on the down side was some artifacting and grain in the background. The aerial views of San Francisco, while gorgeous, also left plenty of room for the errors to surface (and they did). While not a terrible effort, it’s not up to the standard that some of the newer movies have established but then again the movie is twelve years old, so that’s taken into account.
Audio: How does it sound?
Disney has always given their Blu-ray titles the good treatment when it comes to the audio and “The Rock” is certainly no exception. We’re treated to a very robust PCM Uncompressed soundtrack that, quite simply, is amazing. There are a few instances in which the track really gets to shine, the car chase scene across San Francisco being the most prominent with directional effects going every which way it’s quite the aural experience. Dialogue is perfect and the ending scenes do make for a pretty good audio demonstration as well. Suffice it to say that if you want a great soundtrack, “The Rock” has it in spades.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disney could have chumped out and given us a pretty bare bones release with this movie, but they went the extra mile and were able to get a lot of the supplements that appeared on the DVD and Laserdisc Criterion Collection’s of this movie. That being said we get an audio commentary with Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris and technical advisor Harry Humphries. The track has just enough people to make it very interesting. A lot of tracks with just the director seem to have a lot of gaps, but with the Director, Producer, Technical Advisor and two of the lead actors, you really get a good feel from every aspect of the movie. We get an interview with Jerry Bruckheimer as he comments on the success of his films and we get the sense that he shows no signs of not making any more (and he hasn’t). Next up is an analysis of the dive sequence and its special effects. Another interesting piece. Some storyboards are also included as well as some outtakes supervised by Michael Bay (that show a different side to Ed Harris among other things). We also see “The Rock” world premiere on Alcatraz, a fitting place. Also, and I wish other DVD’s would include this feature, there is a section from “Movie Magic” that tells of the films special effects. I know that I’ve seen this for “The Edge” too, but it didn’t make it on that disc. A documentary entitled “Secrets of Alcatraz” is also included, which gives the history of the most famous prison and rounding out the features are some Do’s and Don’ts of Hollywood gunplay with some instruction and commentary by Harry Humphries and Marshall Teague. This Blu-ray has everything that the Criterion DVD did and better audio and video and is thus an easy recommendation.