The Rock (1996)


The Rock is a 1996 American action-thriller film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and written by David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook.

The film stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, with William Forsythe and Michael Biehn co-starring. It is dedicated to Simpson, who died five months before its release.

In the film, an FBI chemist and a former SAS captain are tasked with stopping a group of rogue US Force Recon Marines who have seized Alcatraz Island, taking hostages while doing so, and are threatening to launch rockets filled with nerve gas over San Francisco unless they are paid $100 million.


A group of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines, led by disenchanted Brigadier General Frank Hummel (Harris) and his second-in-command Major Tom Baxter (David Morse), storm a heavily guarded naval weapons depot and steal a stockpile of deadly VX gas-armed M55 rockets, losing one of their own men in the process. The next day, Hummel and his men along with -newly-recruited Marine Captains Frye (Sporleder) and Darrow (Todd) – seize control of Alcatraz Island, taking eighty-one tourists hostage. Hummel threatens to launch the rockets against San Francisco unless the US government pays him $100 million from a military slush fund, which he will distribute to his men and the families of Recon Marines who died on clandestine missions under his command but whose deaths were not compensated.

The Pentagon and FBI develop a plan to retake the island with a US Navy SEAL team led by Commander Anderson (Biehn), enlisting the FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Cage). FBI Director James Womack (Spencer) is forced to offer a pardon to federal prisoner John Mason (Connery), in return for information. Mason, a 60-year-old British national imprisoned without charges for two decades, is the only Alcatraz inmate ever to escape the island. After being set up in a hotel, Mason escapes, resulting in a car chase with Goodspeed through the streets of San Francisco. While Mason seeks out his estranged daughter, Jade (Forlani), Goodspeed arrives, but he covers for Mason by telling Jade that Mason is aiding the FBI.

Goodspeed, Mason, and the SEAL’s infiltrate Alcatraz but Hummel’s men are alerted to their presence and ambush them in a shower room. All the SEALs, including Anderson, are killed – leaving only Mason and Goodspeed alive. Mason sees his chance to escape custody and disarms Goodspeed, but is convinced to help defuse the rockets after the Marines use explosive devices to flush them out.

They eliminate several teams of Marines and disable twelve of the fifteen rockets by removing their guidance chips. Hummel threatens to execute a hostage if they do not surrender and return the guidance chips; instead, Mason destroys the chips and surrenders to Hummel to try and reason with him as well as buy Goodspeed some time. Though Goodspeed disables another rocket, the Marines capture him. With the incursion team lost, the military initiates their backup plan: an airstrike by F/A-18s with thermite plasma, which will neutralise the poison gas and kill everyone on the island.

Mason and Goodspeed escape, after which the former explains why he was held prisoner: he was a British SAS Captain who stole a microfilm containing details of the United States’ most closely guarded secrets, refusing to give it up when captured because he knew he would be killed if he did. When the deadline for the transfer of the ransom passes, Hummel is urged by his men to fire one of the rockets; at first he does this, but then redirects it to detonate at sea. Hummel, confronted by Frye and Darrow, declares the mission is over – explaining that it was all an elaborate bluff as he never had any intention of harming innocent lives. Hummel orders them to exit Alcatraz with a few hostages and the remaining rocket to cover their retreat while he assumes blame. Frye and Darrow rebel upon realising they will not be paid their $1 million apiece, killing Baxter and mortally wounding Hummel – who tells Goodspeed where the last rocket is before dying.

Darrow and Frye proceed with the plan to fire on San Francisco. Goodspeed seeks out the rocket while Mason deals with the remaining Marines. As the jets approach, Goodspeed disables the rocket before killing both Darrow and Frye. He signals that the threat is over just as one jet drops a bomb; though no hostages are injured, Goodspeed is thrown into the sea by the blast and Mason rescues him.

Goodspeed and Mason part ways after Mason reveals the location of the microfilm; Goodspeed fakes Mason’s death by telling Womack that he was killed in the bomb explosion. Sometime later, Goodspeed and his newlywed wife Carla (Marcil) are seen stealing the microfilm from a church and driving away.


  • Sean Connery as SAS Captain John Patrick Mason.
  • Nicolas Cage as FBI Special Agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed.
    • At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger was to have played the role of Dr. Stanley Goodspeed.
    • Schwarzenegger turned the role down because he did not like the script.
  • Ed Harris as Brigadier General Francis X. “Frank” Hummel, USMC Force Recon.
  • John Spencer as FBI Director James Womack.
  • David Morse as Major Tom Baxter, USMC Force Recon.
  • William Forsythe as FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Ernest Paxton.
  • Howard Platt as Secretary of Defence Louis Lindstorm.
  • David Marshall Grant as White House Chief of Staff Hayden Sinclair.
  • Michael Biehn as Commander Charles Anderson, US Navy SEAL.
  • Vanessa Marcil as Carla Pestalozzi.
  • John C. McGinley as Captain Hendrix, USMC Force Recon.
  • Gregory Sporleder as Captain Frye, USMC Force Recon.
  • Tony Todd as Captain Darrow, USMC Force Recon.
  • Bokeem Woodbine as Gunnery Sergeant Crisp, USMC Force Recon.
  • Greg Collins as Private Gamble, USMC Force Recon.
  • Brendan Kelly as Private Cox, USMC Force Recon.
  • Steve Harris as Private McCoy, USMC Force Recon.
  • Jim Maniaci as Private Scarpetti, USMC Force Recon.
  • Stuart Wilson as General Al Kramer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • John Laughlin as Gen. Peterson, United States Air Force Chief of Staff.
  • Danny Nucci as Lieutenant Shepard, US Navy SEAL.
  • Claire Forlani as Jade Angelou.
  • Stanley Anderson as the President.
  • Xander Berkeley as Lonner.
  • Philip Baker Hall as Chief Justice.
  • Anthony Clark as Paul.
  • Sam Whipple as Larry Henderson.


  • The film received mixed reviews from critics, and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 69th Academy Awards.
  • It grossed over $335 million against a production budget of $75 million.
  • Most of the film was shot on location in the Alcatraz Prison on Alcatraz Island. As a national park, it wasn’t possible to close Alcatraz down, and much of the filming had to accommodate tour parties milling around.
  • The scene in which FBI director Womack is thrown off the balcony was filmed on location at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
    • The filming led to numerous calls to the hotel by people who saw a man dangling from the balcony.
  • The Rock’s closing scene shows Cage being chased by a priest as he runs out of a small church in Fort Walton, Kansas.
    • This scene was not shot on the plains of Kansas.
    • It was actually shot outside the historic Sacred Heart Chapel in Saticoy, California (Ventura County, California).
    • Constructed as a general store around the late 19th or early 20th century, near the intersection of Telephone Rd. and Wells Rd., the structure eventually became a church, was moved around multiple times, eventually landed just east of the S. Wells Rd. and Darling Rd. intersection, and burned to the ground in August 2005, a likely result of arson.
  • In June 2017, director Michael Bay discussed his idea for a follow-up to The Rock that never developed past the concept that Mason is chased by the government after escaping.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Michael Bay.
  • Producer(s): Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.
  • Writer(s): David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook., and Mark Rosner.
  • Music: Nick Glennie-Smith and Hans Zimmer.
  • Cinematography: John Schwartzman.
  • Editor(s): Richard Francis-Bruce.
  • Production: Hollywood Pictures and Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
  • Distributor(s): Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.
  • Release Date: 07 June 1996.
  • Running Time: 136 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English and Mandarin.


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