In order to foil a terrorist plot, an FBI agent undergoes facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a criminal mastermind, who murdered his only son. The plan turns sour when the criminal wakes up prematurely and seeks revenge.
It's like looking in a mirror, only, not. There's a tendency to undervalue the action movie. Certainly there's a wide expanse of land in cinema world where film fans reside, where the thought of praising an action film for being "classic" cinema is considered treason against the very word. Yet some of the artistry involved in the genre's leading lights is purely sublime, regardless of how bizarre and unlikely the plot is. Enter John Woo's berserker, ear splitting, high octane actioner, Face/Off. Rightly sitting along side the likes of Die Hard and Predator as genre pieces that showcase how good things can be when it all comes together, Woo's movie is as much fun as you could wish to have for over two hours of explosive, fantastical, unadulterated cinema. The plot sees John Travolta's serious family man cop, Sean Archer, devote his life to catching unbalanced maniacal bad guy Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). There's some bad history between the two and when Archer manages to capture both Troy and his equally vile brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), it would seem to be closure for Archer and his family. However, it's found that the Troy's have left a ticking bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, and if undetected it will flatten L.A. and kill practically everyone. So, Archer undergoes a revolutionary face-swapping procedure with the now comatose Castor and sets about getting the information from the incarcerated Pollux. But wait!, Castor wakes up and turns the tables by assuming Archer's identity, setting the wheels in motion for each man to live the others life until the Face/Off between the pair will decide their respective fate. Unbelievable? Of course. Who cares? Well nobody should really, because surely going into a film like this one is expecting the ludicrous. Both Cage and Travolta are superbly realising the spectacular nature of the script, and being mesmerising in the duality of the roles into the bargain. Make no bones about it, Woo and his team have crafted a benchmark action movie. There's a trail of thought that suggests that Woo basically keeps making the same movie, that's a fair enough point, sure enough, all of his staple action sequences and traits are evident in Face/Off. Yet Woo has delved into his characters, given them some flesh on their action bones, and then upped the anti in action set pieces to cloak them in chaotic beauty. From the opening Jet escape/pursuit set up, to the outrageous speed boat finale, the film is one long exhilarating breath taker. Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain & Nick Cassavetes all file into the background playing important characters who are rightly secondary to the protagonists, while a ream of extras come and go as each are dispatched in a hail of Woo inspired carnage. The pace never sags and the eyes and ears are treated to a vibrancy that is often sadly missing from many other big budgeted action blockbusters. This is a masterpiece of action cinema, so even as a Orson Welles crane shot is a magnificent thing, so it be with the sight of two stunt men flailing thru the air in a spray of exploding water. Oh yes sir, this is a classic alright. 10/10
A quality all-out action film! 'Face/Off' isn't one that'll stick out in my memory as something deep meaning, incredibly written or anything of the sort. However, as an action film it's superb. There's barely a chance to rethink what you've just seen due to the prevalent and manic nature of onscreen events. You also have fascinating performances from the two leads. Nicolas Cage and John Travolta are awesome in this. I won't spoil the plot, but all I will say is that those two bring it to life brilliantly - it felt, at least to me, very believable; which is impressive. Across the opening portion I thought it was going to be Cage stealing the show, but as things progress Travolta really comes up big to match Cage. Away from NC and JT, there isn't really anything to scream about cast-wise; although, I gotta give shoutouts to Mike Delfino and Gavin Harris; if you know, you know. Nothing much more to note, to be honest. The terrific action means I'd highly recommend this.