Ed Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Brigadier General Francis X. "Frank" Hummel in The Rock.
Michael Bay movies are stupid. This is known. This is the good Michael Bay movie, on the virtues that it is a successful action picture, though his unfunny juvenile humor often rears its head indicating his later features though thankfully more minimally here. It might also help is one thing that Michael Bay seems to take pretty damn seriously is the US military. This creating then at least the allowance for anything of even a remote substance, though I will still say in a limited fashion, in the character of General Hummel played by Ed Harris. Harris's performance here, honestly is in a different movie than Cage and Connery, but that's alright, since he barely shares any scenes with them, and we can essentially take in what he is doing separately from their antics which are of a more ridiculous, though definitely entertaining, action spectacle. Harris basically is there to take upon all serious intentions and gravity of the film on his shoulders. This is something he seems more than ready to perform from the opening scene of the film. This is right from the outset of the film as we see Hummel making his technically villainous decision, at the grave of his wife. Harris does not play the scene like a dumb action movie, what the Rock is, but rather reflect the grief within a conviction in his voice. This as Hummel offers almost an apology to his wife in explaining his soon to be actions. Harris offering the devotion of a drama in the moment by reflecting the sadness in the General as some sense of motivation for what it is that he is about to do.
What he is about to do is a lead a group of his solders, and a few extra wild cards (for the sake of a last act villain switch), to steal chemical weapons then take Alcatraz. Harris, as shown elsewhere, excels as the company man military role to begin with. His innately intense delivery, and rigid demeanor help to reflect a man who has lived life by a code of discipline. This even being shown as we see the man in his villainous enterprise, as Harris doesn't portray Hummel as a lunatic, but rather a General prepping for a mission he deeply cares about. This as we see him running it as he would any mission, with Harris delivering each line with a careful measure, and even subtly in his eyes, showing a real sense of loss, when one of his men dies, though hiding it within the veneer of maintaining order as a leader. This is even in a brief, but important moment, when taking Alcatraz, where Hummel asks children to leave the island before he takes it. Harris doesn't make the moment a sociopath putting on an act, but an honestly caring guy asking the children to be out of harms way. This supports as we finally hear the General's demands, which is money, however money specifically for the sake of the families of soldiers killed in Black ops mission, disavowed by the government. Harris delivers on the idea in the initial threat in offering a controlled passion, showing the man absolute belief in his objective, while again still presenting himself as the controlled General feeling he is performing just yet another mission.
Harris makes for a good villain in that he manages to deliver on the idea of the menace within the controlled certainty of the character. Where his performance though goes beyond that is creating a definite tragedy within the role, that he manages to weave from that opening scene and throughout the film. This is that he doesn't just make him some military mad man, but a genuinely caring person. This is within the film as written, however Harris is essentially in not only giving it sense, but even a power to it. Take the scene where his men kill all the government's infiltration team, sans Mason and Goodspeed. The argument that prefaces the massacre, Harris makes more out of the scene, this as he begins with the strict intensity of the General asking for surrender, however as it continues his delivery offers a greater frustration. This not being a frustration at disobedience, but rather seeing the situation is about to go out of his control with innocent lives being taken. His yells of "cease fire" is with harried expression from Harris as man whose resolve has been shaken, and his moment of looking upon the dead soldiers, Harris grants an honest poignancy to as he subtly reflects the real regret in the General within the moment. The one scene where the two sides do collide is where Mason, briefly, turns himself into the marines, and he and Hummel have a brief battle of words. Even in this scene, that is primed as the testing the villain moment, Harris manages carry on the specific arc of the General. This as even reaction to Mason's words, it is with a greater internalized frustration that externalizes as violence.Those that Harris does not act as a beat down for sadism, but rather a gut reaction of a man who can't fully rationalize his choices in the moment. Harris is consistently compelling in granting a severity to the worsening situation, as the General is pushed by his men to launch his poisoned missiles. This as he continues to capture it as the idea of the man slowly getting in over his head on his idea, than a lunatic. This as when they launch one missile, where Harris portrays with a resignation. This not being a resignation to kill, but rather a resignation that his plan is a failure. This naturally comes to a head when his additional wild cards, question his actions and attempt to relieve him of his command. Harris is fantastic in this scene. This as he begins it first with the same conviction explaining his plan was a bluff, therefore it is over. This with the same determination in his voice in his threat as he does explain that he never had intention to kill innocents. I love the moment in which Harris attempts though to tell one of rogue men to stand down, first with his General's confidence, however as the man doesn't listen the second time Harris's voice cracks. This emphasizing the man not only losing his confidence, but also realizing he's lost his control of the situation. Harris finally fully realizing the real desperation of the General as loses that strict assurance of himself essentially. This in his very final moment, that Harris does not waste, in speaking with a genuine regret as he asks "What have I done". This is terrific work from Harris, as he finds a real tragedy within his villain. This even in an absurd action picture, Harris maintains a gravitas within his role, and even offers a semblance humanity into the plot, that is pretty ridiculous when you break it down.