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Call the Pentagon and the San Francisco office. It seems that Alcatraz has just reopened.
— FBI Director James Womack
1996 action movie directed by Michael Bay and starring Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery (playing an aging Expy of James Bond) and Ed Harris.The Rock tells the story of USMC Brigadier-General Francis X. Hummel who, enraged at how his men have been treated by the country that they served, steals 15 rockets of sarin nerve gas and holes up on Alcatraz Island (hence the title), threatening to kill most of San Francisco unless the government gives him a buttload of money to help out military widows and orphans.The administration responds by sending in Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), a chemical warfare expert, and John Mason (Connery), a British secret agent turned Alcatraz fugitive turned full-time convict. Oh, and a SEAL team led by Michael Biehn, but they don't last long...
Hummel: I'm not about to kill 80,000 innocent people! Do you think I'm out of my fucking mind? We bluffed, they called it. The mission is over.
Artistic License – Chemistry: The VX gas description is fairly accurate, save for looking green and melting your skin. It's still very lethal otherwise.
Ax-Crazy: Frye and Darrow. Frye's eyes look like they're about to pop, and he's chomping at the bit to blow up San Francisco, constantly reminding Hummel of the time to launch the missiles. Darrow on the other hand is rather eager to cut up someone who is holding up a batch of very fragile VX gas capsules.
Badass Bookworm: Stanley Goodspeed. Also Mason, who presumably became one while in prison. At one point he laments that he'd have rather been a poet.
Blast Out: When Hummel informs Captains Frye and Darrow plus Gunny Crisp that he plans to abort the mission, a Mexican standoff ensues, with Hummel's second-in-command Major Baxter being the only one not participating. When Frye tells him to pick a side, Baxter opens up on the mutinous officers.
Blatant Lies: Goodspeed describing Mason's death. It's pretty obvious at least half of the people he's telling knows he's BSing them, but they couldn't do anything about it without proof.
Bond One-Liner: Uttered by, appropriately enough, Sean Connery after he throws a knife into a marine's throat (who watched the knife flying towards him while screaming).
Stanley: I have some bad news, and some really bad news. The bad news is that the gas is corrosive and it's eating our suits. The really bad news is there is enough C-4 explosive and poison gas to blow the whole chamber and everyone in the building, detonation: 2 minutes.
Note also his explanation of VX nerve gas to Mason while disarming the rocket.
Stanley (While he's handling the unstable VX capsules): It stops the brain from sending nerve messages down the spinal cord within 30 seconds. Any epidermal exposure or inhalation, and you'll know. A twinge at the small of your back as the poison seizes your nervous system. Your muscles freeze, you can't breathe... you spasm so hard you break your own back and spit your guts out. But that's after your skin melts off.
Chase Scene: The car chase scene utilizes just about every trope on that list.
Deconstruction: Mason is a pretty cool James BondExpy, isn't he? He's got everything! Played by Sean Connery? Check. BadassDeadpan Snarker? Check. Prone to one-night stands? Check. Skilled at escaping death through creative means? Check. Left embittered and cynical after being secretly held as a political prisoner for years because the consequences of international espionage finally caught up with him? Uh...
His sleeping around also ended up with him having a daughter... who hates his guts.
The Dragon: David Morse's Major Baxter to Ed Harris' General Hummel. He eventually follows Hummel in his Heel-Face Turn and gets killed along with him.
Darrow is also Captain Frye's Dragon.
Dramatic Irony: Some between Hummel and Mason during their first conversation. Hummel accuses Mason of not knowing what it's like to see your government betray the memory of their soldiers. Mason himself has spent half his life in prison (including Alcatraz) because the British disavowed him.
Establishing Character Moment: While Hummel is trying to convince the SEALs to stand down, Frye impatiently whispers "Let's waste these fuckers."
Goodspeed using a toy gun on his Rube Goldberg device followed by coolly deactivating a bomb under extreme pressure—he's an eccentric badass.
Mason mentioning Alcibiades, Sir Walter Raleigh and Solzhenitsyn shows he is a Cultured Badass.
Even Evil Has Standards: Hummel never shows any regret for what he did, but in the end he makes it clear it was all a bluff, and he's not about to launch neurotoxins on an unsuspecting city full of innocent people.
Some of the soldiers, notably Sergeant Crisp express their dismay that they will be forced to kill civilians in order to earn their pay. It ultimately does not dissuade them though from seeing the plan through when the other soldiers mutiny against Hummel.
Every Car Is a Pinto: Mason crashes into a meter maid's vehicle during the car chase and it is still capable of making a fireball that brings down telephone lines. Also, the cable car that is wrecked later in the chase.
Expy: John Mason, a character who is James Bond in all but name. Even shares his background and is played by Sean Connery.
Girlish Pigtails: Carla put them on once, since it seems Stanley has a thing for them.
Give Geeks a Chance: FBI lab geek Stanley Goodspeed's girlfriend, Carla, is played by model/actress Vanessa Marcil.
Go Mad from the Isolation: Notably averted. Though Mason has been in jail for over two decades following his escape, he seems perfectly sane and has no trouble carrying on a conversation (or a car chase for that matter). He explains to Goodspeed that he managed to keep himself sane by holding out hope that he'd be able to see his daughter again, or that the British government would arrange his release.
Good All Along: Played With. While Hummel uses extremist methods to get revenge for all the lives that were lost under his command, he was never going to launch the rockets and kill innocent people. Sadly, his men don't think the same and attempt to kill him.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: An unusual example. Womack initially gets Paxton to offer the terms of the deal to Mason, and Paxton is aggressive and intimidating, an approach that has little effect upon him. In desperation, Womack urges Goodspeed to talk to him, and as Goodspeed has no interrogation experience he nervously adopts his usual friendly demeanour. Mason seems more amused than anything else.
Grenade Hot Potato: The bad guy Marines pitch a grenade at Stanley Goodspeed, who grabs it and tosses it back at them. Later on, one of them does it to Mason, except he cooks the grenades so Mason can't do this.
It Always Rains at Funerals: Kind of. There's no funeral, but it's pouring when Hummel goes to visit his wife's grave, just prior to his theft of the nerve gas. He's more or less apologizing to her for what he's going to do.
Played straight with the Marine Honor Guard giving a volley of gunfire for...someone.
Just Plane Wrong: The Air Force is sent to bomb Alcatraz to neutralize the nerve gas but they're flying F/A-18 Hornets, which are exclusively Navy (and Marine) fighter/ground attack jets. The Air Force would've been flying F-15E Strike Eagles for this role.
The cockpit mock-up was originally made for the F/A-18s in Independence Day and then repainted for The Rock. The rest of the F/A-18 footage is mostly Stock Footage that matches up with the set they used.
Kill It with Fire: The Thermite Plasma, designed specifically to burn hot enough to render VX harmless.
Knight Templar: Averted as Hummel, although a very sympathetic villain, had never intended to launch the missiles.
Large Ham: Nic Cage (unsurprisingly), Gregory Sporleder, Ed Harris, and Tony Todd.
Last Stand: We hear the radio chatter of Hummel's Marines fighting one over the opening credits. Help doesn't arrive.
Malevolent Architecture: The way John Mason gets in/out of the cistern room (under the furnaces with belching fire and turning gears). Mason: "I memorized the timing. I just hope it hasn't been changed..."
The Nineties: After Mason is released from prison, Goodspeed suggests that he get a haircut because he looks like a 20 year old Grunge musician from Seattle.
Non-Lethal Warfare: The Recon Marines neutralize the naval arsenal without killing any guards, not wanting to kill fellow Marines. Of course they were still brutally effective without bullets. The reinforcements brought to Alcatraz don't have any qualms like that.
Justified because the reinforcements are mercenaries brought in to fill up the necessary manpower to occupy and defend Alcatraz than real Marines and supporters of Hummel.
Not What I Signed On For: Hummel has no intention of actually going through with his threatened chemical attack if his demands aren't met. He finds out at the end that his associates feel differently. More specifically, they felt that there was no going back — when his bluff is called, he folds but they decide to stay all in.
Crisp: Killing marines is one thing. Is this for real?
Frye: Hey, it's just business.
One Dose Fits All: In the opening scene, the mercenaries use tranquillizer darts on the soldiers guarding the chemical weapons depot. All of them fall unconscious practically immediately, despite their different sizes.
Operation Game of Doom: Disarming the nerve gas rockets - the capsules are VERY fragile, one brush can mean one shattering and dropping.
Orbital Shot: When Stanley works to disarm the bomb in his first scene.
Stanley getting up from the wrecked Ferrari, after it looks like Mason got away.
Redemption Equals Death: Hummel and his former friend Baxter get killed by the ruthless Marines, once they decided to not fire the rockets on civilians..
Redshirt Army: The SEAL team. A real SEAL Team no less. Dennis Chalker and Harry Humphries were two of half a dozen SEALS who advised and performed some of the scenes in the film, with Snake actually landing a part. They only really end up in this situation because they're outnumbered and pinned down in an inferior tactical situation...
Semper Fi: Although being the bad guys, the Marines (and a few possible ex-Rangers, and some mercenaries) take out a Navy SEAL team, albeit under the fact they had superior firepower and a much more elevated position.
The Starscream: Captain Frye who becomes the real Big Bad after he and his accomplices killed Hummel and his longtime friend Baxter.
Stress Vomit: Stanley Goodspeed throws up when he's recruited to be part of the rescue mission, and told the full risks of going in.
Stuff Blowing Up: The Marines throw a couple bombs in the sewers to flush out any more intruders. One of the thermite plasma missiles is launched just before the abort order comes in.
Television Geography: One of the nerve gas missiles is fired towards "a football game", apparently heading for the Oakland Coliseum. When the camera shows the missile seconds away from its target, the stadium shown is actually Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The car chase is all over the place geographically. For example, at one point, a police report says they are heading west on California Street....but in the very next shot, not only is it obvious that they are not on California Street, but they are also headed east towards Coit Tower.
The FBI mobile command center is shown to be situated at a warehouse on Pier 39. In reality Pier 39 is a heavily developed shopping center and tourist trap in Fisherman's Wharf.
Title Drop: Since the movie is named after a common nickname for Alcatraz, the term gets mentioned a few times.
Took a Level in Badass: Goodspeed started as a mild mannered lab rat who never swore. He ends the film by force-feeding the remaining merc VX gas, stabbing himself in the heart with the anti-VX agent, and manages to gather enough strength to avert the firebombing of Alcatraz.
Tragic Villain: Hummel's not even a real villain, he's just seeking reparations for the men betrayed by their government after trying every official channel.
Tranquillizer Dart: In the opening scene, the mercenaries use tranq darts on the soldiers guarding the chemical weapons depot. All of them fall unconscious immediately.
Trapped in Containment: First to showcase the nasty effects of VX on a poor rebel, and the second that introduces us to Goodspeed's skills.
Unperson: Mason. Even Goodspeed's FBI buddy has a hard time locating him in the Bureau of Prisons database. At the end of the movie John Mason effectively fakes his own death, putting him beyond the reach of just about everybody.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hummel, driven to extremes to get compensation for the families of soldiers killed on secret missions. By virtue of his rank and the gravity of the threat posed by his scheme to San Francisco (even if he didn't mean to carry it out, his men certainly did), Hummel is also arguably a Ripper. Even his opponents admit that if they've alienated a great man like Hummel, they've done something wrong.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Hummel was driven to madness by his government's betrayal although he was bluffing all along and didn't mean to kill anyone.
Who Shot JFK?: Mason is in jail because he stole microfilm containing, among other secrets, the answer to this question. Which is strange, since he stole it in 1962.
Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Before taking the tourists and tour guide hostage, Hummel asks a group of elementary students to inform their class to evacuate Alcatraz. This was also seen when a rocket meant for San Francisco was destroyed mid-way without hitting its target through it’s unclear if he had a change of heart, considering children would’ve been among the killed.