"This isn't just a thrill ride, it's a rocket..." -- Time
"Face/Off marks John Woo's return to critical acclaim." -- Asiaweek
Paramount, 1997, 138 min.
Winner of the 1997 MTV Movie Awards for "Best On-Screen Duo" and "Best Action Sequence"
Director: John Woo
Stars: John Travolta ("Sean Archer"), Nicolas Cage ("Castor Troy")
Producers: Terence Chang and Christopher Godsick
Writers: Michael Colleary and Mike Werb
Cinematographer: Oliver Webb
Editor: Chrsitian Wagner
Available on video (full frame or letterbox) from Paramount
To go to the official Face/Off site, click here
"In order to trap him, he must become him."
FBI agent Sean Archer is determined to catch international terrorist Castor Troy, who killed Archer's young boy. After a blazing gunfight in an airplane hangar, Troy seems to have been killed and Archer can finally rest. However, Troy is not dead, and he's left a little "present" for Archer -- a large chemical bomb that will decimate Los Angeles unless Archer can find it first.
Going into a deep undercover operation, Archer uses experimental surgery to "become" Troy by having their faces swapped. Archer hopes to infiltrate a top-secret maximum security prison as Troy to make his brother give out the location of the bomb. He does, but not before Troy wakes up and takes Archer's face for himself. Now, Archer must escape from the world's toughest prison in time to save his family and co-workers from Troy's wrath.
While the premise is somewhat implausible, Woo's brisk direction keeps the story moving fast enough so you won't dwell on it too much. However, the story does tend to lag in the middle when Troy/Archer each assume their new roles. This might have been interesting, but for me, it really didn't work, especially with Troy. While Archer's wife (Joan Allen) is attractive, she's not so great-looking (plus she has kind of a stiff personality) as to justify why someone like Troy would go through all the time to romance her. Once the characters stop trying to imitate each other, the movie begins to flow better.
The action scenes in Face/Off are great, especially the one in a high-class loft where FBI agents and gangsters clash while a little boy is caught in the middle. However, the chase scenes (airplane/helicopter at the beginning and the boat chase at the end) are a little too "Hollywood" and seem kind of out of place in a Woo movie (they almost seem to be directed by someone else). Also, the ending is so sickeningly sweet, it makes me cringe. Overall, though, Face/Off was one of 1997's best movies and definetly Woo's best work since Hard-Boiled.
Thanks to King of Gunfire for these tidbits:
Back to Movie Review index