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Blu-Ray : Recommended
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Release Date: January 8th, 2008 Movie Release Year: 1996

The Rock

Overview -

A group of renegade marine commandos seizes a stockpile of chemical weapons and takes over Alcatraz, with 81 tourists as hostages. Their leader, a former highly-decorated U. S. general, demands $100 million to be paid in ransom, as restitution to families of soldiers who died in covert operations and were thereby denied compensation. Otherwise, he is threatening to launch 15 rockets carrying deadly VX nerve gas into the San Francisco Bay area. An elite SEAL team, with support from an FBI chemical warfare expert (Stanley Goodspeed) and a former Alcatraz escapee (John Mason), is assembled to penetrate the terrorists' defenses on Alcatraz and neutralize the rocket threat before time runs out.

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray 50GB Dual Layer
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Subtitles
Special Features:
Promotional Material
Release Date:
January 8th, 2008

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


In reviewing the Jerry Bruckheimer produced blockbuster 'Con Air,' I said that he does “big dumb fun” flicks better than anyone in the business. When these entertaining gems nail the right balance of action and story, they tap into the little boy buried deep in our brains -- the kid that always laughs at explosions and cheers the demise of the bad guys. Of all the mid-90s "big dumb fun" flicks, 'The Rock' has always been my favorite. So what makes it so special? Does it still hold up more than a decade after its release? Read on...

FBI biochemist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage) is not having a good day. A group of renegade Special Forces soldiers led by Brigadier General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) have swiped a shipment of chemical warheads, taken hostages on Alcatraz Island, and aimed their missiles at the heart of San Francisco. With the help of the only man to ever successfully escape Alcatraz, aging convict and former British spy John Mason (Sean Connery), Goodspeed must accompany a team of Navy SEALS as they infiltrate Alcatraz prison and attempt to neutralize the missiles.

'The Rock' was the sophomore effort of director Michael Bay (‘Pearl Harbor,,’ ‘Transformers’), and the flashy filmmaker had yet to toss character and story aside as he would in later films. If anything, the flick has Bruckheimer’s experienced fingerprints all over it -- fire fights and chase scenes may be a bit over the top, but there's a genuine heart and soul pulsing beneath the action. Goodspeed, Mason, and Hummel, don't feel like characters, they register as real people, each with their own occasionally surprising intentions, and the three lead actors deliver performances that only further elevate the film. Whereas 'Con Air' relished in comicbook characterizations, 'The Rock' handles it’s characters, even its central villain, with respect and skill. It’s the moments of surprisingly effective pathos and drama, spread between some truly thrilling gun battles, that give this film a special place in the genre.

Praise aside, my favorite bits in 'The Rock' are the nods to other films. There are several suggestions that Connery's character is a rendition of James Bond. Numerous lines are lifted directly from other films ('Diamonds Are Forever' and 'Escape From Alcatraz' among them). And a number of scenes seem mapped after classic actioners. If you keep your eyes open, you can play a film reference scavenger hunt as you watch for the myriad of hints and jokes spread throughout the film.

More than a decade has passed since its original release, but 'The Rock' is still a compelling film that prioritizes character and story over action. Yes, it occasionally suffers from one-note henchman and semi-distracting subplots, but it’s one of the most endearing action films I've reviewed. If you've never seen 'The Rock,' give it a chance -- it's infectiously entertaining.

Video Review


Like 'Con Air,' the Blu-ray edition of 'The Rock' blows its standard DVD counterparts out of the water. Encoded with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, the film has never looked better. Colors are rich and the skintones remain nicely saturated regardless of a scene's lighting -- even when scenes takes on a blue hue in the underground tunnels of Alcatraz, the actors never look pale or sickly. Contrast is strong and the transfer's deep black levels aren't prone to crushing or poor shadow delineation. There's a convincing level of depth present in every shot, nearly hitting the high definition "picture window" ideal. Better still, detail is impeccable, with sharp textures, crisp on-screen text, and crystal clear background elements throughout.

I also didn't catch major instances of source noise, banding, or artifacting, even when the action grew fast and intense. The only problem I had with the transfer is that it suffers some edge enhancement -- look closely at any long shot of San Francisco or Alcatraz and you'll catch tiny edge halos outlining the buildings. While the EE isn't as obvious or frequent as it is on the Blu-ray edition of 'Con Air,' it does pop up to spoil the party nonetheless. Even so, this minor blemish doesn't ruin an otherwise stellar video transfer. The picture quality will please fans of the film to no end and impress quite a few newcomers along the way.

Audio Review


'The Rock' features an aggressive PCM 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/ 16-Bit/ 4.6 Mbps) that does an excellent job handling the film's dense soundscape. Take any scene, whether in downtown San Francisco or in the bowels of Alcatraz, and you'll notice a complete 360 degree soundfield that makes you lose yourself in the track. The rear surrounds are populated with ambient effects, the LFE channel lends weight and support to every sound, and dialogue is perfectly spread across the front speakers. The dynamics blew me away, and I was impressed with how cleanly sound transitioned across the soundfield. Hop to any scene where a rocket is fired -- the soundscape comes alive, creating a real sense of movement and space.

My only complaint its that the Hans Zimmer score is neatly compartmentalized in the left and right speakers. The music seemed slightly flat compared to the rest of the soundfield and it wasn't nearly as involving. Since the orchestration is synthesized, the score sounds even more artificial than it normally would. Still, this is a small issue that will probably go unnoticed by most listeners. 'The Rock' sounds great and I'm sure fans will sing its praises.

Special Features


I'm pleased to report that the majority of features from the 2-disc Criterion edition DVD have been ported to this Blu-ray edition of 'The Rock' (the only features missing are a collection of stills and a few storyboards). I look forward to seeing more of Criterion's excellent efforts on future titles.

  • Audio Commentary -- The audio commentary is actually a series of individual interviews seamlessly edited together in a precise presentation of facts and memories. It includes comments from director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, actors Ed Harris and Nicholas Cage, and technical advisor Harry Humphries. The participants really have a lot of great information and anecdotes to share.
  • Secrets of Alcatraz (SD, 15 minutes) -- This is an interesting little featurette that could have been more memorable with additional material. It basically covers the history of Alcatraz and traces its path from notorious prison to tourist attraction. The featurette itself is decent, but I'm surprised a full documentary from a network like the History Channel wasn't included.
  • Interview with Jerry Bruckheimer (SD, 16 minutes) -- This simple interview is actually my favorite supplement on the disc. A static camera focuses on the famed action producer as he talks about his childhood, his career, and the complicated genesis of 'The Rock.' Good stuff.
  • The Navy Seals on the Range (SD, 6 minutes) -- A short featurette that examines the real world SEAL tactics used in the film. Again, this is a limited supplement that could have really benefited from a wider breadth of information.
  • Hollywood Humphries and Teague (SD, 8 minutes) -- Technical advisor Harry Humphries shows us the firearms used in the film and discusses the dangerous lessons Hollywood has taught viewers about handling guns.
  • The Special Effects for Dive (SD, 8 minutes) -- This making-of segment covers the filming for the Alcatraz SEAL insertion. I was amused to learn that miniatures and special effects were used to create the scene, but the featurette wasn't compelling enough to warrant more attention.
  • Action Effects Movie Magic (SD, 8 minutes) -- An examination of two action scenes from the film. This mostly dry technical supplement spent way too much time looking at the minor CG used in the scenes.
  • Outtakes (SD, 9 minutes) -- I couldn't stop laughing while watching this collection of cuts and flubs. Ed Harris is the central figure in the clips, and he is a whirlwind of emotion and frustration. This is definitely one to check out.
  • The Rock World Premiere (SD, 2 minutes) -- A shallow EPK look at the film's premiere. Skip it.
  • Promotional Material (SD, 8 minutes) -- A junket of two trailers and five TV spots.

Final Thoughts

'The Rock' is an entertaining action flick that really prioritizes character and story -- a rarity in action films these days. This Blu-ray edition of the film features a remarkable video transfer, a booming PCM audio track, and a nice collection of supplements ported from the Criterion DVD. To be blunt, toss your DVD copy and pick this one up post haste.