Few action movies carries as much morality and questionable circumstances as this one. In The Rock we follow a furious general (Ed Harris) leading a group of Marines to take control of Alcatraz Island (along with tourist hostages), a location that used to house criminals. Accompanying them are over a dozen missiles that can spell tens of thousands of innocent lives with every blast. However, he isn't just a trigger-happy man gone crazy, he is a man seeking justice for the dozens of lives he saw taken from warfare without compensation. A villain with a "moral" agenda, yikes. The only hope for the United States is the only man that has ever broken out of that prison (Sean Connery) and a chemical "superfreak" (Nicholas Cage). With the odds obviously against them, the Pentagon is one order away from destroying the entire location regardless of the innocent lives located in the island. Mindless this movie is not, as the stakes are high, there is always a risk of an innocent life going under, and our heroes rarely ever have the scenario under control. It's just enough to make you squeal in frustration.
With the tension remaining edgy and the solution never being oh-so-close, we can thank the writers for delivering a slam-bang storyline full of great one-liners, likable characters, and a villain that isn't as simple to figure out as the average evildoer. The writing staff ranges from the writer of the third Die Hard to even Tarantino. A major reason for the film's quality is the casting. Sean Connery and Ed Harris are excellent in their roles and Nicholas Cage albeit a few lines does a good job. The supporting staff helps as well, as we see the likes of David Morse, John Spencer, and Cage's love interest Vanessa Marcil.
Unlike Michael Bay's latest films, which run from mediocre to just plain bad, he blends plenty of drama and suspense along with action here. As a matter of fact, the first half of the movie is all suspense, as the situation is developed, and the risks are presented. Disregarding a superb car chase, there isn't much exploding in the first 80 minutes. However, once the protagonists enter the Rock, it all goes on the uphill action swing. We get brutal fights, brutal shootouts, near-misses, double-crosses, triple-crosses, chases, and enough explosions for action fans to sink their teeth into. The funny thing, the two main actors at the time weren't expected to be in such action. Connery was aging, and Nicholas Cage just didn't have the look or the attitude for it. Fortunately for us, they proved us dead wrong.
Bottom Line: If you want to see a true action classic, The Rock is a great example. Rising above the average action movie and above the decent ones as well, this is by far Michael Bay's best work and one of the signature flicks of the 90s. Combining tension you can cut with a steak knife with thrills, chills, and plenty of carnage, The Rock has aged well and continues to influence the work of modern action movies and the work of Michael Bay as well. Grab some popcorn and enjoy this ruthlessly clever movie. Recommend to the max, as long as you don't mind a bit of blood spewing onto the screen. They just don't make em' like they used to.