Rating 4/5

In the film “Face/Off,” directed by John Woo, the story concept centers around FBI agent Sean Archer, played by John Travolta, seems so obsessed in stopping his nemesis Castor Troy, played by Nicolas Cage, that the Travolta character “becomes” Troy in order to stop a biological bomb from detonating in the city.

This is an older film, released in 1997, but if there is anyone who hasn’t seen it then be forewarned…there are some spoilers.


In the film’s opening, Archer is playing with his son at a carnival. In a confrontation between Archer and Troy, Archer’s young son is shot and killed. Troy is eventually caught, but is in a coma. This is really the point the sets the whole action of the film in motion.

Soon after Troy is captured, the FBI learns of a bomb threat that is set to go off somewhere in the city. A plan is devised through a breakthrough surgical procedure where the face of Troy and Archer are “swapped.” Now, Archer looks and sounds like Troy. In doing so, he hopes to infiltrate the prison where Troy’s brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), is being held in order to find the location of the bomb.

Seems like a pretty simple idea. Archer discovers the location of the bomb, gets out, helps save the day, and then is reunited with his family. But as anyone knows there has to be some conflict in the story. So, while Archer is in prison “disguised” as Troy, the real Troy wakes up from his coma and gets the doctor to transplant Archer’s face on him. The procedure is complete so Troy kills the doctor and destroys all of the equipment and records that explains the operation. Now Archer is in real trouble.

All Archer wants to do is to get Troy and return to his life he had before with his wife and family. These two characters have a classic hero-villain relationship and they each play “each other” well. There is a long history with these two characters and sets up the dramatic conflict in the film well. Archer wants Troy because he killed his son and, well, because Troy’s just a bad man. Overall, the acting was decent in the film, which also brought me into the world of the story.

I found the pacing of the film to move very well, as it almost had to being an action thriller. There were some slower paced bits and sequences, but only for the needed character and story development and really didn’t detract too much from the pacing to bring me out of the story. John Woo seems to have blended all of these elements well into a watchable action film.

Other notable actors in the story were Joan Allen, who played Eve Archer (Sean’s wife) and Dominique Swain portrayed Jamie Archer, their daughter. Colm Feore was Dr. Malcom Walsh, the doctor who performed the transplant, and Gina Gershon played Sasha Hassler, Troy’s girlfriend.

I was a little hesitant at the science of the film at first, with the whole transplanting of faces and altering voices. It may have been a little far fetched at the time (late 90’s), but I quickly moved beyond that and bought into the story and action of the film. And with technology and science now, the possibilities may have been set in motion.

Obviously there are some who may have not liked this film. Others may have thought it was just horrible. I for one viewed it as entertaining action. It had interesting, varied characters, a good story, and action.

“Face/Off” was written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. It has a run time of 138 minutes and is rated R.

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