After looking past the numerous, and unrealistic, action scenes, one issue struck me as particularly interesting. Conformity is a subtle theme revealed throughout the course of this film. General Francis Hummel, agent Stanley Goodspeed, and FBI director Wommack all fit roles which appear to be in line with the conditioning they received from serving in military and government roles. Despite his disillusionment with the American government, Hummel, a renowned war hero, is driven by moral certainty and cannot bear to kill the lives of innocent citizens. He is proud of the service he has rendered his country and therefore cannot truly turn against it and the lives of the citizens he fought to protect. Goodspeed portrays the typical nerdy scientist whose only combat knowledge came from the brief field training he received in order to become an FBI agent. Thrust into the deep end, he is forced to learn quickly or thousands of innocent people will die. Director Wommack’s role is synonymous with that of many upper level politicians. He is hot-headed, malicious, and oblivious to the feelings of others. With a constant snarl on his face, it is easy to disapprove of his stubborn attitude.
The sole exception to these conformist roles is John Mason. A former British agent, he opposes the American government and is consequently punished for it. Instead of following every order he is given, he is apparently disillusioned by some aspect of government and steals its deepest, darkest secrets. Despite all this, he never appears to be the lethal, cold-blooded killer who is so dangerous, he technically does not even exist. Rather, he is solely the victim of having too much knowledge of government’s covert operations.
In addition, we are able to see the emotional and compassionate sides of each character before the action begins. Hummel makes sure that all children are off the island before beginning his takeover and Goodspeed shows his concern for his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child when being assigned a role in the mission to land on Alcatraz. Also, Mason still cares about his daughter that he has never meant; she was the driving force behind his will to escape from The Rock in the first place. In contrast to these characters, Wommack is shown as a heartless, self-centered individual who has little respect for others.