The Rock
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FAQ for
The Rock (1996) More at IMDbPro »

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Rock can be found here.

What is 'The Rock' about?

When renegade Brigadier General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) and his group of Force Reconnaissance Marines (FRM) steal 15 rockets of deadly VX gas, take 81 tourists hostage on the prison island of Alcatraz (affectionately known as 'the Rock'), and threaten to release the gas over San Francisco unless the Pentagon pays him 100 million dollars, F.B.I. Director James Womack (John Spencer) enlists the aid of F.B.I. chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and former M16 agent John Mason (Sean Connery), currently a federal prisoner and the only man to ever escape from Alcatraz. Together, they must break INTO Alcatraz and find the rockets so that Goodspeed can neutralize the chemical bombs.

No. The Rock is based on a screenplay co-written by David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, and Mark Rosner, along with Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin, and Jonathan Hensleigh (all uncredited).

The date isn't specified but it's assumed to be taking place in the present (1996) when the film was made. The movie opens with General Hummel attending services at a military cemetery. He then pays a visit to his wife's grave, which bears the year 1995 as her date of death. He quietly tells her that he couldn't do what he is about to do while she was alive, suggesting that her death is quite recent.

Hummel was certainly depicted as a highly-decorated soldier. Some of the medals that have identified include on his left side (1) top row from left to right: Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart; (2) middle row from left to right: Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and (3) bottom row from left to right: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Saudi Arabia Kuwait Liberation Medal. The ribbons on his right side include the Navy & Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation. There's an Oak Leaf Cluster on the Silver Star, meaning that he got two of them, and two Oak Leaf Clusters on the Purple Heart, meaning he earned three of them.

Mrs. Hummel was a civilian. However, she is buried in a military graveyard. When Hummel himself dies, he will be buried right beside her. A visitor strolling by would read: 'General Francis X. Hummel, winner of the Medal of Honor,' and right beside him, 'His wife, Barbara Hummel.'

Hummel lost 83 of his FRM men while under his command carrying out covert operations. Because their service was secret, and in some cases illegal, they received no recognition, such as proper military burial or benefits to their families. After attempting to get recognition for these marines through the normal channels, Hummel has decided to force the government into giving them the compensation they deserve.

While working as a British intelligence agent, Mason obtained the private files of J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the F.B.I. These files held delicate federal secrets, things such as information about the Roswell UFO incident and the assassination of President Kennedy. Mason put all this information on microfilm, hid it, and has steadfastly refused to reveal the hiding place. He was being held without trial (illegally) in order to attempt to keep him from getting the microfilm to his handlers in the British government and also to break him into confessing to the whereabouts of the microfilm. But Mason was smart enough to know he'd be "suicided" as soon as he gave it up.

Chest tightness, convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory failure are some of the known symptoms of VX poisoning as registered by the CDC, accurately represented in the movie. Upon exposure to large doses of VX, loss of consciousness and death is most likely if no antidote is given. We technically don't see anyone going unconscious and dying of VX, but we later hear that the Marine who got exposed in the beginning was 'lost in the process'. We can assume that Cpt. Frye (Gregory Sporleder) suffered the same fate, since he did not receive treatment. However, the blistering of the skin (and the 'skin melting off', as Goodspeed calls it) are not listed as a known symptoms by the CDC and were obviously invented to make it more sensational. Furthermore, what we don't see in the movie is excessive drooling, sweating, involuntary crying, and vomiting.

A chemist was experimenting with a group of organophosphate compounds. This yielded one that was initially marketed as a pesticide called Amiton. However, this compound quickly proved to be too dangerous for safe application, so it was withdrawn. However, the British Armed Forces showed interest and created a class of related compounds to be used as nerve agent. VX is one of them, and is potentially the most toxic compound synthetically created.

As Stanley Goodspeed correctly points out, VX (official name S-[2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl]-O-ethyl methylphosphonothioate) is a "cholinesterase inhibitor." Cholinesterase is an important mediator of relaying signals through the nerve system. The muscles and a large part of the autonomic nervous system are controlled by nerves that use a compound called acetylcholine to relay their electrical signals. When an electric signal arrives at the end of one nerve, acetylcholine is released from the nerve end and travels over to the beginning of the other nerve. There the acetylcholine binds to special receptors and starts a new electrical current in the other nerve, so that the signal can continue. Electrical signals keep being generated as long as acetylcholine is present. To prevent acetylcholine from continuously starting electric signals, cholinesterase is also present nearby. These molecules break down the acetylcholine and terminate the electric signal. However, VX is an irreversible cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning that it permanently binds to cholinesterase and makes it ineffective. The result is that acetylcholine keeps building up without being broken down. This causes the nerves to continuously discharge electric signals, which causes autonomic glands to keep secreting fluids and the muscles to go into a state of sustained contraction. The result of this is involuntary crying, drooling and vomiting, all muscles start to have violent spasms, and the body starts to convulse. Muscles of the diaphragm become permanently contracted, making breathing impossible, causing the victim to suffocate and die if appropriate treatment is not given.

Since VX causes strong muscle contractions, the logical treatment would be administering a compound that causes muscle relaxation. Atropine has this capacity; it binds to, and thereby inhibits, (most of) the nerve receptors that bind acetylcholine, thereby prohibiting the excess acetylcholine that continuously activates the nerves. In turn, this prevents the muscles from going into involuntary spasms and keeps the body from convulsing. Atropine acts fast and is a first-line remedy against the life-threatening spasms, which cause asphyxia. Injection into the heart upon contact with a nerve gas like VX is to assure that the heart is not slowed down to a cardiac arrest as well as to spread the atropine quickly and optimally throughout the body, as the heart is the source of all blood flow. However, just administering atropine alone would not be enough, because it would only treat the symptoms of VX poisoning and not the cause. Normally, pralidoxime (2-PAM) is also given, which reactivates the cholinesterase that has been inactivated by VX. Since 2-PAM works a lot slower than atropine, the latter still needs to be given; otherwise the victim may have already died from suffocation before 2-PAM starts to take effect. Diazepam should also be administered, because it acts as an anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant, thus calming down the patient. Atropine and the additional compounds work best as preventive measures. When administered after exposure to VX or another nerve gas, it will stop the toxic effects, but there will almost certainly be some amount of permanent neurological damage.

It's Meet the Beatles!, the band's second official release -- on it were some of the Beatles' earliest popular songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "I Saw Her Standing There" and "All My Loving". More info here. The album can indeed sound better than a CD but ONLY if Stanley got the Hi-Fi stereo edition (which, being a Beatlemaniac and obviously a musician (he plays guitar later on), Stan would definitely know about) and only if he had authentic Hi-Fi stereo equipment to play it on, which Stanley would probably have. More info on the format can be found here. Until 2009, all Beatles work sounded better on vinyl. If he got Meet the Beatles, the mono version sounds better. The mono version of all Beatles vinyl is much higher quality as the band were there for the mixing, whereas the stereo mixes were done by someone else at Abbey Road studios. The record itself had a very high price, about $600, because it was probably a used "first" pressing that was in "mint" (nearly perfect) condition. Stanley likely found out about it through another Beatles fan or a record store & made an offer to buy it. The movie was made about the time that the earliest versions of the world wide web were public so he could have found it in the internet too.

It's a clothesline. The line is pulled out and hooked it to a receptacle on the opposite wall. It's used for hanging wet clothes, such as swimming suits.

Viewers have suggested several possibilities. Jade (Claire Forlani) gave Mason a reason to live while incarcerated. He tells Goodspeed that he always dreamed of breathing fresh air and meeting his daughter. Jade lived in San Francisco, which give him an additional reason to want to stop the release of the VX gas. Plus, as he later explains, he came back to help because he doesn't want Goodspeed's child growing up without a father, alluding to his own daughter growing up without him. Finally, the scenes with and references to his daughter humanized Mason, giving both the audience and Goodspeed a reason for caring about Mason at the end of the movie.

Quite inaccurate. There is no tunnel system under Alcatraz.

When Stanley asks him this question, Mason replies "As soon as they got their hands on it they'd suicide me." meaning they'd just kill him and make it look like he killed himself. As the British government disavowed any knowledge of Mason, he couldn't count on them for help. So, the U.S. Government held him prisoner in the hopes that one day he would break and reveal the location of the microfilm. Once he did, there was no point in keeping a British spy who had knowledge of America's darkest secrets alive.

How does the movie end?

Mason and Goodspeed break out of their cells and go in search of the last two rockets. When the feds do not capitulate and ask for another hour to meet his demands, Hummel fires off one of the rockets to show that he means business. At the last moment, however, he aborts the target and sends it hurtling harmlessly out to sea. As Mason and Goodspeed watch from a peephole in a door, Hummel admits to his men that he's not about to kill 80,000 innocent people. Realizing that his bluff has been called, he informs them that the mission is over. He claims full responsibility and orders them to evacuate the Rock. When they realize that they won't get paid, the men mutiny against Hummel. A shootout occurs, and Hummel is hit. Goodspeed pulls him out of the line of fire and, with his last breath, Hummel tells Goodspeed the location of the last rocket. Goodspeed goes looking for it, followed by Darrow (Tony Todd), while Mason stays behind to hold Frye (Gregory Sporleder) at bay. Meanwhile, the military has decided to blow up the island and everyone on it and has dispatched F/A-18s to make an air strike. Goodspeed finds the last rocket and takes out the gas pearls. Darrow attacks him, and Goodspeed kills him by firing the disarmed rocket into him. He then tries to disarm the targeting chip embedded in the pearls, dropping one. Fortunately, it doesn't break, so he puts it in his shirt pocket. While Goodspeed is under fire, Mason fights off the shooters. Frye corners Goodspeed, who defends himself by shoving the gas pearl into Frye's mouth, exposing them both to VX. Goodspeed then injects himself in the heart with atropine. With bombers one minute away, he lights the flares to signal that the threat is over. the air strike is aborted, but one of the bombs has just been launched. It blows up the back of the island, knocking Goodspeed into the water and rendering him unconscious but not harming any of the hostages. Suddenly Mason appears and pulls Goodspeed from the water. Goodspeed reminds Mason that the scuba gear they used to get on the island is still there and lets him go free. Before he leaves, Mason gives Goodspeed a note revealing where the microfilm is hidden. When Womack shows up to rescue him and the hostages, Goodspeed informs him that Mason has been 'vaporized' and blown out to sea. In the final scene, Goodspeed and Carla (Vanessa Marcil) recover the film from a hollow leg in the front pew of a church in Fort Walton, Kansas and drive off in a car bearing a sign saying, 'Just married.'

The trivia states: Stanley Anderson, who is uncredited as the President in this film, also plays the President in Armageddon (1998), another Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer film, creating a connection between the two movies. In both films, there is a scene where he stands in silhouette against a bright window while contemplating a decision that would doom the heroes. Other actors are in both films but play different roles, so any meaningful connection is unlikely.

The old British BBFC 15 version was slightly censored missing out several short action scenes. All cuts were waived for the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

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