Directed By: Michael Bay
Written By: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook, and Mark Rosner
I miss the days before the actual War on Terror when the terrorists we saw in action movies were guys like General Hummel. These were the good old days when the bad guy could be a decorated war hero threatening innocent people with chemical warfare and it wasn’t a big deal. Hummel even gets a redeeming moment in the end despite the awful events he put into place. The world was just so much simpler back then.
The action genre in its truest form was peaking when this movie came out. Back when it was all about the guns and the explosions. These days everybody has to be an advanced martial artist of some kind but back in 96 it was little more than a gimmick for guys like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. In the 90s the stakes were often higher and the action was simpler but still exciting.
People love to hate on Michael Bay and I totally get that. Nevertheless I think this movie is an obvious go to in his defense. Yeah he goes to over the top far too often and makes really unfortunate decisions as a producer but I have enjoyed several of his films. This is a fun and exciting action movie and when he’s not trying to do too much Michael Bay is really good at making movies like this. Granted I was 12 when I saw this movie, and it was easily the most awesome thing I had ever seen at that point. I think the movie holds up today too, it’s still a good action movie and I enjoy watching it.
If I remember correctly, this was the first of the “Nicolas Cage action trilogy” that immediately followed his reception of the Academy Award for Best Actor. I remember thinking this was a big time action movie for a guy like him. Who did he think he was? Stallone or Schwarzenegger? I didn’t realize quite how things were changing for those guys though. As for Cage I think he was still getting more successful as an actor but it was downhill for him in this genre after this film. Castor Troy was awesome but I really just find Con/Air to be overkill and ridiculous. In this movie he is a great comedic element to all the badassery going on around him, and he is able to rise up and be heroic in his own right. By the time he was done with this venture into action films he was killing people over stuffed bunnies. Nevertheless he wasn’t done as he came back with great dramatic performances such as we saw in Adaptation and The Weather Man. In this movie he is just funny and fun, “glass or plastic?”
More important than Cage in this movie is Sean Connery. Who was practically all but done as an actor after this movie came out. He had a couple of notable appearances after this but this was his last exceptional film as far as I am concerned. He gets all the moments in this movie as a legend to the genre. As the first to ever order his martinis “shaken, not stirred” the original 007, Sean Connery, should have quit after this film and effectively rode out into the sunset. Entrapment was over hyped and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was so bad it made him decide to give up acting altogether. In this film he shows us a steely nature and action know how that reminds us why he was the original James Bond. He also gets his Sergeant Murtaugh moment saying “I’m too old for this [shit].” Most importantly Connery reminded us that he was still a badass. If he wasn’t going to do anymore than he did he should have stopped after this and left his legacy on a high note.
As I mentioned him in my opening I think it’s obvious I like Ed Harris as General Hummel. The problem with being a bad guy when you’re not really a bad guy is eventually you can’t keep up the act. General Hummel becomes a terrorist for the right reasons but struggles to maintain things as the temperature rises. He’s not a bad guy he is just trying to do the right thing, when his bluff is called he is turned on by the actual bad guys he’s joined up with. Ed Harris is a great actor and I have always thought he was great in this. In a movie that isn’t all that complex he is the most complex character.
The supporting cast of this movie is deep. There is an abundance of talent in the background of this movie. In no particular order they consist of John C McGinley, David Morse, Michael Beihn, Bookem Woodbine, Tony Todd, William Forsythe, Xander Berkley, and Raymond Cruz. These guys all bring something special to the movie but special props to my favorite among them, Michael Beihn. The guy should have been an action badass and somehow got relegated to the heroic side character death in a film like this. Michael Bay action movies often assemble a good overall cast and that’s just another thing I like about them.
This movie came out at a time that I consider the peak of the genre I grew up with and truthfully that was the post Die Hard era of action movies. This of course was the Die Hard on Alcatraz version within the genre an I thought it was exceptional. I consider this a film near the end of that particular genre but I don’t know if I’m really right about that. There are no doubt many out there who are really passionate about “Die Hard with Liam Neeson.” From where I’m sitting I may never understand that but I expect there are people out there that could present a compelling argument on its behalf.
This is a cool movie with everything you could want out of an action movie. This is an exciting film that will be well worth your time to see. I think that even after twenty years it is still a movie I can enjoy and that’s what really matters the most. I wouldn’t call it a must see by any means but a movie you couldn’t go wrong spending an afternoon with.
NEXT MOVIE: The Rocketeer (1991)