Saturday, May 6, 2006

Now Playing: The Rock

I recently re-played Half-Life 2 to get ready for the expansion pack this June, and the Nova Prospekt sequence got me in the mood to watch this 1996 gem again. For you non-gamers, that level is a massive run-down prison complex that you must infiltrate to save a friend. Running across the cracked and faded linoleum tiles made me think about the famous washroom scene in The Rock so naturally I had to re-watch the whole thing which I haven't done in years.

Dear God I love this film. It's massive, overblown, and the simplistic script is wholely underdeserving of the fetishistic attention to detail director Michael Bay brought to it. But all the bombast in Bay's arsenal combined with this story to make for a hell of an entertaining film. And Ed Harris was robbed of an Oscar nomination for this, by the way.

The story has a Marine black ops team gone rogue capturing Alcatraz Island with 81 tourists as hostages and aiming 15 poison gas missles at San Francisco. The Feds and the Pentagon send in a Navy SEAL team along with Nicholas Cage at his highest strung and an ex-convict-SAS-all-around-badass Sean Connery to take out the missles. Of course, things don't go as planned and it builds to the washroom scene that has me on edge every single time I see it.

The SEALs under Michael Biehn's command infiltrate the prison through the showers but the Marines are tipped off by a nifty motion sensor (that later has a cameo in Bay's Bad Boys II). The Marines cover the SEALs from above the showers and Harris and Biehn have a magnificent verbal sparring match and the normal intensity of both actors rises considerably. It's obvious from the start what's about to happen but the tension of the scene just keeps escalating and escalating past the point of no return. Harris and producer Jerry Bruckheimer both point out in the commentary that Brig. Gen. Francis Hummel was one of the toughest parts Harris ever played, and knowing that the guys on both sides of the issue are good men caught in a bad situation only amplifies the sheer fury of the sequence.

Can you tell that's one of the scenes I'll watch over and over again?

I always wished the film kept some of the SEALs alive and they, along with Cage and Connery, continued to fight the Marines through Alcatraz but sadly it was not to be. What remains is watching Connery kick ass while Cage plays a funny second fiddle to a guy who has no problem throwing a knife into an enemy's throat. Bay's talent for showmanship and Americana is on full display especially at the end of the film when he beautifully shoots the Bay City in all its considerable glory. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend it.

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