To foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a ruthless terrorist. But the plan backfires when the same criminal impersonates the cop with the same method.
Stanley Goodspeed, who lives in Washington D.C., is a biochemist who works for the FBI. Soon after his fiancée Carla Pestalozzi announces that she is pregnant, Stanley gets a call from FBI director James Womack. Womack tells Stanley that San Francisco's Alcatraz Island has been taken hostage, along with 81 tourists, by marine General Francis Xavier Hummel who, for years, has been protesting the government's refusal to pay benefits to families of war veterans who died during covert military operations. The death of his wife Barbara Hummel on March 9, 1995 drove General Hummel over the edge, and now he's holding hostages in order to get his point across. Stanley is needed because General Hummel has stolen some VX gas warheads and has announced that he will launch them onto San Francisco unless his demands are met. Stanley knows how to disarm the bombs, but Stanley needs someone who knows Alcatraz well enough to get him inside. That man is former British intelligence agent John Patrick ... Written by
The Rock is one of my all-time favorite suspense - thrillers. Believability - almost always a problem for this sort of film - is enhanced by a very compelling script, sets, and powerful performances by masters Sean Connery and Ed Harris. Like a good work of fiction, it's the quality of the telling that makes it believable, not the likelihood that it might happen. There are no problems with the way this story is told. The acting, editing, directing and visuals do not slip at all. Nick Cage - in a performance which approaches his best work - adds a bit of campiness and humor to this explosive mixture, and John Spencer, Tony Todd, David Morse, and Michael Biehn all contribute substantially to an exciting, fast-paced and emotionally draining film. Any avid movie-goer will be hard pressed to find a single actor in this sizable cast who has not either become a major star or a fine character actor over the last nine years.
The plot takes a number of twists and turns along the road, so to discuss almost any aspect of it in detail would require at least mild spoilers. None of the plot twists are unbelievable if you are willing to accept the basic premise. The story begins with Ed Harris - a Viet Nam war hero and field leader who is now a general and has become fed up with the abandonment of covert forces operatives by the US government. To get what he wants, he recruits some of the best officers under his command to take control of and hold Alcatraz Island, holding 70-some-odd civilians hostage and aiming four missiles loaded with deadly Sarin gas directly at the heart of San Francisco.
Biehn heads an elite Navy SEAL team assigned to infiltrate and disable Harris' capabilities. Cage joins him as the FBI biochemical specialist assigned the task of disarming the warheads, and the only man who can get them in to do their respective jobs is an aging British intelligence agent who has been incarcerated for 30 years or so by the government that now needs his help. Connery's John Mason escaped from Alcatraz during his incarceration, and for all intents and purpose - is a much rougher, more real James Bond character without the gadgets and the comic-book super-villains. All of the above is established in the first ten minutes of the film and the next two hours is a wild ride, with some very tense moments and some very intense performances.
I'm sure a lot of people will pick this film apart for the occasional unbelievable scene, etc, but it's worth while to remember - as my spouse is always telling me - "its only a movie".
If you want reality, take a walk outside or go to work!
There are no discernible powerful political messages in this film. While it must be acknowledged that the USA does sometimes treat members of its armed forces in an unappreciative and cavalier manner, this film does not really drive this point home in the way that, for example, Saving Private Ryan did. While it is also true that the US government does occasionally cover-up its own illegal activities, or soft-pedal them with propagandistic white lies, these issues are not really the subject of this film. This is made abundantly clear by the oddly out-of-place references to Roswell, New Mexico. The writers either did not want to dignify any perceived political messages by bringing up real-world transgressions and cover-ups - many of which are far more sinister than the secret development of stealth planes. This film is pure entertainment and - at that - a work of art. Treat it as such and you might just have a good time with it.
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