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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adevnture > Terrorism > Espionage > Military > The Rock (1996/Blu-ray)

The Rock (1996/Blu-ray)


Picture: A-     Sound: A-     Extras: B     Film: B



Though nobody knew it at the time, Michael Bay’s The Rock would be the last big action hit for one of the greatest of all international film stars Sean Connery.   A great actor, Connery still continues to be known as the first big James Bond and here he plays a criminal who the government has kept in prison for many years.  The dangerous figure has aged, but is now needed to help the U.S. Government to stop a potential domestic terrorist from one of their own soldiers (an intense Ed Harris) whose patriotism has gone overboard.


On the case is a desk bound employee (Nicholas Cage) who is an expert on biochemical warfare, the kind the head of the group is willing to launch on the populace nearby Alcatraz, which they have taken over and secured to a fault.  They need the veteran prisoner to get in there and stop him to save millions of lives, but it will not be easy, especially since the angry prisoner trusts no one.  Then Stan (Cage) meets him and the first problem will be if they can even get along.


Connery is in top form here and steals the show from some very good actors at their best, but the action is never far behind in some of the few truly memorable action sequences of the 1990s.  The makers went all out and with Connery, they should have done nothing less.  It also reminds us of how smart the late Don Simpson was; a perfect match for Bruckheimer in what may be the peak of their prolific (and highly profitable) partnership.  This also helped put Cage on the map beyond art films as Connery handed one of his many action mantle torches to the next generation.


The David Weisberg/Douglas S. Cook/Mark Rosner screenplay holds up well enough, though you can tell it was written pre-9/11 as this film would never be made the same way today, but it is enough of a winner to own and its arrival on Blu-ray is something to be happy about.  With Connery, it will be a big seller too, especially since his Bond films have no sign of being announced yet.  Even afterwards, it will be on the shelf next to them for most fans.  John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Danny Nucci, Danny Nucci and Claire Forlani also star.



The 1080p 2.35 x 1 digital High Definition image definitely is the best Bruckheimer/Simpson back catalog title in either format for picture performance.  Shot in Super 35mm by John Schwartzman, A.S.C., this was the last time and Bay would shoot this way before they switched back to real anamorphic Panavision for Armageddon.  Their partnership sadly ended when Bay left Disney.  Following Terminator 2 and along with Die Hard With A Vengeance, they took advantage of being able to shoot a scope frame without a squeeze lens.  Sure, this means more grain and weaker definition, but when handled well, you can still get fine results if you try and all three films added a new kinetic sense to scope lacking in many later Super 35mm and digital variants.


Previously, The Criterion Collection DVD was the best-looking version of this film, but this Blu-ray version far surpasses that with detail and depth unseen since its original 35mm theatrical release with fine color, good detail or the format, depth and an overall solid look that impresses throughout.


The sound mix on this film has always been a top notch favorite and has been available in two DTS versions that were always home theater favorites.  First was a 12” DTS LaserDisc and The Criterion Collection DVD was the second, though it had a few glitches.  Now, the new PCM 16/48 5.1 mix outdoes them both with terrific soundfield and a clarity that makes even the DTS sounds limited, though the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in the past are as poor as the alternative versions offered here.  The Nick Glennie-Smith/Hans Zimmer score can get carried away, but has its moments and is nicely reproduced in this smooth mix still featuring more character than moist we get today.


Extras happen to include those from The Criterion Collection, first in a 12” LaserDisc box set edition (without DTS) and then in their DTS DVD release, including TV spots, theatrical trailers, outtakes, Bruckheimer interview, action effects, special effects, world premiere party piece showing the classy launch they gave the film at Alcatraz, Navy SEALS On The Range featurette, Hollywood: Humphries & Teague piece and terrific audio commentary by Bay, Bruckheimer, Cage, Harris and Humphries.  I always enjoyed how they showed the sloppy dumb way characters in movies handle guns, which they are still doing.


But The Rock is an exceptional action film, even with its flaws, corniness and awkward spots of comedy.  But with Connery on board, it is a minor classic.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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