The Rock is a 1996 action film that primarily takes place on Alcatraz Island and in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was directed by Michael Bay, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. The film is dedicated to Simpson, who died five months before its release. The film received generally favorable reviews from critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing at the 69th Academy Awards.
That Sean Connery’s convict "John Mason" – the only man to ever escape Alcatraz – is actually an older version of Connery-era 007.
The theory goes that in the mid 1960s, famed British secret agent James Bond was caught spying in the United States, and locked up in infamous island prison Alcatraz (aka The Rock) on espionage charges.
The plot sees the FBI enlist the help of Connery’s character (and his knowledge of Alcatraz), to help Nicolas Cage’s scientist thwart a group of ex-marines bent to destroying San Francisco with chemical weapons, using the prison as a base.
Aside from the obvious fact that legendary 007 actor Connery plays both characters, numerous references are dropped throughout ‘The Rock’ to Mason’s shadowy spying past.
Grouchy FBI director Womack introduces Mason as man who was locked up 33 years ago (which would have been the peak of Connery’s Bond career), is SAS trained, and a professional escape artist:
“[He’s] a British national, incarcerated on Alcatraz in 1962… escaped in ’63,” growls Womack. “This man has no identity, not in the United States or Great Britain. He does not exist. Understand?”
This timeframe matches up with Connery first donning the Bond tuxedo for ‘Dr. No’ in 1962, but 'The Rock' implies that he was captured again soon after his Alcatraz escape – though Connery was still playing 007 until 1971 (or 1983 if you count ‘Never Say Never Again’).
Later, when Womack is pressed to give up who their mysterious man is, he reveals Mason was a British operative who stole secret government files from influential FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, but was captured at the Canadian boarder.
“Of course the British claimed they’d never heard of him. And we held him without trial, until he gave up the microfilm. But he never did,” admits the FBI boss.
“This man knows our most intimate secrets from the last half-century," he adds. "The alien landing at Roswell, the truth about the JFK assassination. Mason’s angry. He’s lethal. He’s a trained killer. And he is the only hope that we have got.”
Mason himself, played by a then 65-year-old Connery, even boasts to Nicolas Cage’s character: “I was trained by the best… British Intelligence.”
And, in a throwaway gag, the script parodies Connery’s infamous ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ one-liner, when he replies to Cage’s introduction “I’m Stanley Goodspeed”, with a cheeky “but of course you are…”
So, is Sean Connery actually playing an ageing James Bond, who was abandoned by us Brits for 30 years? Or, is it just wishful thinking from those of us who wanted to see one last outing for the original 007?
There are so many references in the script that at the very least the writers must have been aware of the Bond parallels, and were just having fun with it.
Brilliantly, 'The Rock' also ties in with one of cinema’s greatest ever fan theories – that “James Bond” is just a codename, inherited by numerous MI6 agents over the years (allowing for different actors to play him within the same movie timeline).
So when Womack tells us Connery's captured spy “doesn’t exist”, it’s because he doesn’t. James Bond never did…