Last Chance To Stream The Movie That Turned Nicolas Cage Into An Action Hero

By Nathan Kamal | 1 week ago

Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage has been in the news cycle a bit more than usual lately, and for good reason. After a number of years in the trenches of direct-to-DVD action thrillers of varying quality (that is, from very bad to acceptably awful), Cage has reemerged as one of the pre-eminent actors of our times. He is currently receiving some of the highest critical acclaim he has ever received in his long and very wild career for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (in which Cage plays a sadsack version of himself palling around with billionaire arms dealer/heartthrob Pedro Pascal). Nicolas Cage has performed in every genre conceivable, from romantic comedies like Moonstruck and It Could Happen to You to bizarre thrillers like Zandalee and Bringing Out the Dead to family adventures like National Treasure and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. But in the 1990s, this scion of the Coppola family and Nouveau Shamanic thespian ruled Hollywood as an action star. The movie that turned Nicolas Cage into one is 1996’s The Rock and you barely have any time left to stream it. The Michael Bay blockbuster is leaving Amazon Prime Video at the end of April, so this is your last chance. 

sean connery the rock

We now know Nicolas Cage as an actor who can do just about anything, including roles that maybe no one should ever do (we’re looking at you, G-Force). But prior to The Rock, Cage was known for his intense, borderline unhinged acting in dramas and offbeat art films. He starred in a Coen Brothers quirky baby-heist comedy, a romantic movie in which he competed with James Caan for the heart of Sarah Jessica Parker, and that movie where he actually at a bug, even though nobody asked him to. But he was not an action star. The role Nicolas Cage plays in The Rock was reportedly originally intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger, which shows what the film thought it was going to be. In its completed form, it is difficult to imagine anyone but Cage playing the role of Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, chemical weapons specialist and avowed Beatlemaniac. Where it would have been impossible for Schwarzenegger to be anything other than an action star from the start of the film, we actually see Nicolas Cage start as a hapless nerd (albeit one with a gorgeous girlfriend and an improbably huge apartment filled with guitars) and end the movie an action hero. 

nicolas cage the rock

The Rock was director Michael Bay’s second feature film and the crystallization of the style that would make him the dominant action filmmaker of the decade. It begins with Brigadier General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) asking forgiveness at the grave of his wife. Then it swiftly shifts to him and a group of rogue Marines (played by an unbelievable row of character actors including David Morse, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, and Bokeem Woodbine) stealing chemical-toxin armed rockets. They make their way to the former prison island of Alcatraz (aka “The Rock”), taking a tourist group hostage and demanding the U.S. Government pay them $100 million to be distributed to the families of soldiers who died on black ops mission and are thus not honored for their sacrifices. Nicolas Cage is recruited as the FBI’s top chemical weapons expert, and then Sean Connery is brought in as SAS Captain John Patrick Mason, the only man to ever escape from Alcatraz. 

the rock nicolas cage sean connery

Michael Bay moves the film along with breathtaking efficiency. It practically takes longer to sum up the premise and stakes of the movie than it does for the film to present them. Characters are instantly and thoroughly established from the beginning. Nicolas Cage is quirky and unused to action (as evidenced in his panicking, but rising to the occasion in FBI Headquarters chemical mishap early on). Ed Harris is soulfully presented as a man of iron will and determination, who nevertheless is deeply pained by becoming a traitor to his nation, even for the best of reasons. Sean Connery is given an introduction courtesy of his legendary (and director-intimidating) status as an action icon, being pulled into the light from a 30-year off-the-books imprisonment with long white hair and shortly thereafter breaking through chains with a bent quarter. 

the rock ed harris

By the end of The Rock, Nicolas Cage has transformed from someone who can barely remember his FBI firearms training and throws up in front of William Forsythe to taking on black ops Marines. It would be the beginning of his run of high-octane action films like Con Air, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Face/Off. Until the recent release of Ambulance, The Rock was Michael Bay’s highest-scoring movie on Rotten Tomatoes and was included in the prestigious Criterion Collection as a representative of “cinema at its finest.” It is a deceptively nuanced film in which the “villains” led by Ed Harris are far more sympathetic than the FBI handlers controlling Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. Reportedly, both Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino did uncredited work on the script, and it shows in terms of both its hyper-verbosity and surprising sense of humor. But hurry! You only have a little more time to find out for yourself. Go, go!