Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel (Harris), himself a widower, disgusted by the way the government abandoned many of his men, assembles a rogue team of 14 elite U.S. Marines (Force Recon), most of whom have previously served under him while Captains Frye and Darrow are new. Hummel attacks a naval weapons depot, taking fifteen VX missiles. He loses one of his men during the attack, when a ball of VX gas is dropped and a marine is exposed to the agent, dying a gruesome death while the rest of the squad gets out in time. Hummel then occupies Alcatraz Island, taking 81 tourists hostage in the process. Hummel threatens to kill San Francisco's entire population with the VX missiles unless the government agrees to pay $100 million out of a supposed slush fund both to the families of American commandos lost in classified operations throughout the world, and to him and his men.
Captain John Patrick Mason (Connery) is an SAS operative imprisoned for 30 years without trial for stealing microfilm that contained sensitive U.S. Government secrets. Upon his capture, he was disowned by the British government. All evidence of his existence has been erased by both the British and the Americans. An expert escape artist, Mason attempted to escape many times over the years, although he was always recaptured. He has been locked in another maximum security prison for an unspecified length of time since his last escape attempt as the movie begins. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had orchestrated all of this, since Mason refused to reveal where the microfilm was hidden, and the policy was continued by current FBI Director James Womack (John Spencer). Upon hearing of the VX missile crisis, and after a discussion with Navy SEAL Commander Anderson, Womack reluctantly calls upon Mason, as he is the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz, and he is the one who can guide the commandos into the island via the catacombs underneath it.
Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), an FBI chemical weapons speci