Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Godspeed, Goodspeed

The Rock
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, Michael Biehn
Released: June 7, 1996

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to The English Patient)

I decided to complete the trifecta of Nicolas Cage R-rated action movies that all came out in the mid '90s with the one that started it all, and my personal favorite out of all of them, The Rock. Although it's been at least ten years since I've last seen it, I have seen it a handful of times and I still love it. It's a great popcorn movie. It is widely perceived by many people (including Bay himself) to be Michael Bay's best movie. It is certainly my favorite movie of his, but really, it's not that hard to choose. The only notable thing he had done prior to this movie was Bad Boys, then after this he did Armageddon, which was okay, then he did a lot of crap like The Island, Pearl Harbor, and the five or so Transformers sequels. I've only seen the first two Transformers movies and since the second was way worse than the first one, I assume they get get worse and worse. 

I feel like the real dream team of this movie are the producers, Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. This was their last production together (they also produced other big movies such as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and Beverly Hills Cop). Simpson died during the production of this movie and it is dedicated to him. 

Whenever I think Sean Connery, I don't think James Bond (not a James Bond fan anyhow), but rather this movie. Well, if I'm being honest, I probably think Sean Connery as a contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy, haha, but I don't know if that counts since it's not really him. I would say it's my favorite Connery film and maybe my favorite Cage movie, although I really do love National Treasure! It's a close call...but there are actually a lot of similarities between the two films. 

The movie begins with the villain (but not really), a disgruntled Marine, Frank Hummel (played by Ed Harris) and other Marines he's recruited to join his cause to take control of Alcatraz (aka The Rock!) and take about 100 tourists and put them in the cells as hostages. They have four rockets ready to go off with a poisionos gas. I didn't quite understand what exactly happened, but he was involved in a secret, illegal mission that went awry and many men died. He threatens to launch the missiles unless the government splits $100 million among the family members of the marines who died that day. He is also offering to pay the men who are helping him each a million dollars. He feels like their deaths should be compensated, which I understand, but he's not going the best way about it, though he thinks this way they will listen. The first glimpse we see that Hummel is not the one dimensional villain that he could be is when he and his men are about to take the group of tourists hostage and he goes up to a group of school kids and tells them to tell their teacher they need to go back to the bus.

James Womack (a pre-West Wing John Spencer) is the FBI Director who Hummel tells his plan to. He prepares a team of Navy SEALs (led by Kyle Reese himself, Michael Biehn). All he needs is someone who knows about this particular poisonous gas and how to diffuse the rockets and someone who can help get them into the prison without being detected by the Marines guarding it.

Stanley Goodspeed (Cage) is the scientists/chemical weapons specialist who works at the FBI Laboratory in D.C. We get some foreshadowing in the scene he is introduced in because the lab is delivered a suspicious package from Bosnia, so Goodspeed and another guy go into a protective chamber with their protective suits on to inspect it. There's a baby doll in the package and the other guy starts playing with it, and, of course, some kind of poisonous gas (the same that's in the missiles) is spewed from its mouth and alarms are going off. Goodspeed tells everyone, "I have some bad news and some really bad news." NOT the kind of thing you ever want to hear. They're trying to run the sprinkles, but there's some kind of malfunction. Um, why didn't you check to make everything was working before you opened something potentially dangerous? Who the hell is running this place? Anyway, we see that Goodspeed is calm under pressure when diffusing a bomb (which was inside the doll and he had four seconds to spare). We also see there's an an antidote if you are exposed to the poisonous gas which the guys on the outside of the chamber want them to take because the gas is eating their suits and will soon kill them if they are exposed to it. If they stick this needle with the antidote into their hearts, then they will be fine and can stop the bomb, but neither want to stick a needle into their heart. This will also come back later.

John Mason (Sean Connery) is the "former guest" as he puts it, of Alcatraz. He is said to be the only inmate of Alcatraz to escape. (I guess they're not counting the men from the movie Escape from Alcatraz as attempted escapes since there's no evidence they survived). He has been locked up the last 30 years and basically doesn't exist as there are no records on him. He has too many national security secrets that he dug up such as Roswell and who killed JFK and the government doesn't like that. But he is the only person who can lead them into Alcatraz, so they try to cut a deal with him. He tells them he wants to stay at a hotel and get a suit and haircut. Why he didn't think to include to ask for a visit from his daughter didn't make much sense because he goes through this whole charade just to get to her. It's exciting, don't get me wrong, but it seems like it would just be a lot more simpler for him to ask for this simple request and I don't see why they wouldn't grant it. So what he does is take a rope while he's showering....because showers have ropes hidden in them, apparently. He also calls room service to distract the other agents. Womack and Goodspeed are the only ones with him when he's getting his hair cut by the guy from Boston Common (how's that for a deep cut?, no pun intended!) on the balcony. He goes to shake hands with Womack to show his cooperation, but instead ties the rope around his hands and throws him over the balcony. Goodspeed attempts to call for help, but all the other agents are too busy stuffing their faces. Mason ties the rope around a chair and runs away. By this time the other agents have come out to help pull Womack up and Goodspeed (who will need, ahem, good speed in this scene) chases Mason driving a Humvee through the streets of San Fransisco in a yellow Ferrari. They are swerving to miss people; they are flying over hills; they are crashing into parked cars; Goodspeed runs over a bunch of parking meters with the coins falling out everywhere; Mason crashes into a truck carrying huge plastic jugs of water which roll all over into the street; he also pushes a trolley off the tracks and into a great big fall of fire. Goodspeed totally trashes the Ferrari and a guy on a motorbike comes up to him and says, "Dude, your Ferrari is totally f***ed!" and he responds with, "It's not mine! And neither is this!" and takes the bike from him. The whole thing was completely ridiculous but it's the reason why we love (or hate) Michael Bay. Goodspeed figures out Mason has a daughter and is going to see her. This whole thing could have been completely avoided!

They are finally able to get Mason back and now it's time to infiltrate Alcatraz! They go under water and through a tunnel system. They wanted Mason to give them the blue prints for the place, but he tells them they're in his head. There's a giant furnace with two flaming pendulums that Mason has memorized the timing to and must roll under to get inside and unlock a door to let the others in. Soon after that the SEALs come in contact with the Marines and Hummel tells them to stand down, but Kyle Reese says he cannot do that and someone accidentally steps on stones which fall and there's a big shootout and all the SEALs are killed and the non-important Marines who we haven't had any screen time of. Now Mason and Goodspeed are the only ones left alive who came along with the SEALs.

I couldn't help thinking how cool this movie would have been as a video game because at this point on, it almost kind of plays as one. When you select a character, you could choose between Mason or Goodspeed so you're either the old guy kicking ass or the scientist diffusing bombs. This would have been an awesome video game; they ride in mine carts for God's sake! And you can shoot at an air conditioning unit to land on a guy's head! Tell me that isn't asking to me made into a game! At this point it's the two of them going through the labyrinth of this abandoned prison, trying to find the missiles and diffuse them.

We find out that Hummel had no intention of ever launching the rockets and when one is launched, he is able to divert it into the ocean. This makes the other men angry and there's a big shoot out where Hummel is killed, but not before Goodspeed is able to get him to tell him where the last rocket is. This rocket is used to kill one of the bad marines when he follows Goodspeed up to the tower. In probably the most hilarious and simultaneously gruesome movie death scene, Goodspeed tells him he should like the song "Rocket Man" by Elton John because he is about to BECOME the rocket man and launches the rocket at him where he is thrown out the tower, then lands on a pole where he is impaled. Then in another scene, another guy is fighting with Goodspeed and he puts a ball of poisonous gas into the guy's mouth and his skin immediately starts bubbling and melting. Goodspeed must have been prepared because he has a needle of the antidote to inject his heart with.

I really love the relationship between Mason and Goodspeed. They first start out skeptical of each other, but when they have to work together, they grow some respect for each other. Each man saves the other man's life at one point when they are incapable of helping themselves. Mason gives Goodspeed some good advice and pep talks along the way and it's almost like a father/son relationship

The POTUS has ordered a strike on Alcatraz even though there are still innocent people there but he rather kill about 100 innocents than the 70 or 80,000 the missile with the poisonous gas would kill. Goodspeed tries to warn the oncoming jets with flares. One jet released a bomb, though it only lands on the back of the island and nobody is killed. However, when Womack calls Goodspeed to confirm his whereabouts, Goodspeed tells him that Mason was killed and that his body "vaporized." It's a very sweet moment and made me go "awww". In turn as a thanks, Mason tells him where he can find a microfilm with all the government's secrets and in the last scene, Stanley and his girlfriend-turned-wife are uncovering the treasure. It's very Shawshank Redemption meets National Treasure. 

But yes, by far the best movie Michael Bay has directed or been involved with. I always have lots of fun watching it and laugh at the stupid quips. 

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