[Movie Review] Face/Off

00183_001Starring: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon
Director: John Woo
Genre: Action
Cert: 18
Released: 1997

One of my favourite jibes is ‘you mustn’t be two faced because if you were you’d wear the other one’. Not that I’d consider saying that to either John Travolta or Nicolas Cage after what they’ve been through in this movie.

Sean Archer (Travolta – “Broken Arrow”, “Michael”) is the Chief of a special covert FBI task-force. They’ve spent years on the trail of terrorist, Caster Troy (Cage – “Con Air”, “City of Angels”) and Archer in particular is looking to avenge the murder of his young son by Troy. In an airplane hanger shoot-out, Archer finally gets his man. However, he is soon told that the dying Troy and his imprisoned brother (and partner-in-crime), Pollux Troy (Alessandro Nivaro), have planted a bomb in the city and they have no way of finding it before it kills thousands of people..

Knowing that the only person Pollux would talk to about the bomb is his brother, Archer agrees to undergo state-of-the-art surgery which replaces his face and voice with that of Caster, whom the FBI have kept alive underground. Archer, under the guise of Caster Troy, goes to the prison and attempts to solicit the information from “his” brother. The plan goes pear-shaped though when the real Troy arises from his coma and takes on the identity of his nemesis, Sean Archer. With roles reversed and so much at stake, it’s only a matter of time before both the protagonists face off.

When it comes to invention and originality, the plot of “Face/Off” is right up there. The whole premise of two people swapping actual physical identities is up there in the realms of science fiction. Somehow though the plot remains strangely believable. Most of the credit for this goes to the two main stars who are each called upon to deliver two very different performances in one movie. While Travolta’s tough guy image is a specialist taste (I enjoy it for what it’s worth), Cage is equally adept at delivering both a heart-warming and a brazen, aggressive performance and he does so here brilliantly. Also worth a mention is Archer’s wife, Eve (Allen), who is excellent as the spouse who is let down just a little too often.

Director John Woo, was responsible for one of the worst Hollywood movies ever (“Broken Arrow”) and his erratic career is further emphasised by the fact that this is one of Hollywood’s best action flicks. His trademark slow motion sequences are carried out well, if a little excessively at times, and the action set-pieces are mind-blowingly entertaining demonstrating a superb use of panning and sound.

In addition, the emotive issues in the movie (Archer’s loss of his son and his inability to get over it, his wife struggling to come to terms with her husbands busy and dangerous vendetta against Troy) are handled sensitively and succeed in staying away from the more ‘nauseating’ angle that many action films have suffered from in the past (any Stallone rubbish for example).

Great storyline, excellent performances, superb direction, immaculate production and maximum entertainment. But damn it, I never give five stars to anyone.

Ok, maybe this once.


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