Rock, The

The Rock (15)

BOND is back!

Okay, so it’s not really James Bond, but John Mason, Sean Connery’s character in this rip-roaring and action-packed modern blockbuster is as near to seeing a Connery/007 revival as we are likely to get. It’s Bond by any other name.

Considering Big Sean is a grey-haired, craggy 66 years old this year, some may argue that he’s past it and, like all thoroughbreds, should be put out to grass.

Don’t you believe it. As a former SAS operative Connery does the Bond thing extremely effectively despite his pensioner’s status while tempering the action sequences with his inimitable tongue-in-cheek humour.

It’s also worth noting that despite the presence of Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris – both substantial Hollywood “names” and not inconsiderable actors in their own right – Connery effortlessly steals the film.

In The Rock (2hrs 16mins) he is an ageing hard-nut secretly incarcerated for over 30 years for swiping ultra-secret FBI files. Throw in the fact that he’s the only man to have escaped from Alcatraz and you get an idea of his resourcefulness. Like Hannibal Lecter, he’s so dangerous the US authorities locked him up and threw away the key.

So when a crack team of marines seize control of Alcatraz, take 81 tourists hostages and threatens to launch missiles full of deadly poison gas on the citizens of San Francisco unless the government agrees to publicly honour their fallen comrades and compensate their families, Uncle Sam finds himself in a world of trouble.

Suddenly, John Mason finds himself Mr Popular, but he won’t give up his very special knowledge for free.

So begins an extraordinary adventure which finds Mason teaming up with FBI boffin Stanley Goodspeed (Cage, playing the wimp) to take on hero career soldier Brigadier Frank Hummell (Harris) in the dark and gloomy fortress of Alcatraz.

Goodspeed’s brief is to stop the rockets and neutralise the poison; Mason has to get him there by picking his way through the maze of underground tunnels through which he found his freedom all those years ago. To this unlikely duo falls the task of saving thousands of innocent people from a terrible, skin-melting death.

The first of the summer’s big-budget blockbusters, The Rock is a brilliant, 24-carat action classic bolstered by an intelligent script, smooth direction from Michael Bay and a definable chemistry between Connery and Cage.

The plot tries to give the movie more than just the average slam-bang attitude, throwing in a vaguely patriotic hook on which to hang the poison gas angle by pitting marine against marine. With Harris’s bitter soldier providing the core of their anger and frustration the situation becomes very real and very unpredictable.

Cage, meanwhile, capably proves he can play scientists as well as schizos, while holding his own against such a consummate professional as Connery.

It is Big Sean, however, who rules the roost. At 65, he still has what it takes. A little slower, a little weightier perhaps but, like The Duke, he walks tall.

Fast, furious and fabulous entertainment.

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