Top 365 Films – #169 – Face/Off (1997)

Top 365 Films - Face:OffDIRECTED BY: John Woo

STARRING: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, John Carroll Lynch, James Denton, Tommy Flanagan, Matt Ross, Danny Masterson, Chris Bauer, Margaret Cho, CCH Pounder and Robert Wisdom

BUDGET: $80m

EARNED (Worldwide): $245.6m

AWARDS: None (Oscar Nomination for Best Sound Effects Editing)



To foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a ruthless terrorist. But the plan backfires when the same criminal impersonates the cop with the same method.


Face/Off has us following the story of an FBI Agent Sean Archer on the hunt to capture freelance terrorist Castor Troy, with a personal vendetta in the case as Troy killed his son in an attempt to assassinate him. When Archer has Troy cornered and knocked out, putting him in a coma, he learns that Troy was telling the truth about having a bomb planted in Los Angeles that will detonate within the next few days. With the only person who knows the location of the bomb is Castor’s brother Pollux and he refuses to talk, left with no option Archer undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of Castor Troy to find out the location of the bomb from Pollux. Unfortunately due to the transplant, Castor Troy regains consciousness and wants revenge on Archer by taking his face and ruin his mission and personal life.


God bless growing up in the 90’s for the action films while carrying ridiculous premises,  more often than not, were executed well and Face/Off is one such film. John Woo manages to create a memorable action film, though longer than it should be, with a plane vs helicopter first act to the speed boat sequence in the end and of course some added doves before carnage begins caught in the middle. With a premise so far fetched, it’s a benefit to the film that the two leads just have a good time in the roles, embracing the insanity of the plot and having a hand to play the other, with Travolta acting as Cage and Cage acting as Travolta. In particular this film may just have Nic Cage at his Cagiest from playing Castor Troy to a memorable opening dressed as a priest to being ‘Ready for the big ride’ until he then plays Travolta under the mask of Troy, with glorious results of a man reaching emotional breakdown levels of Cage when everything starts to go wrong and Troy assumes his face. While Cage does his thing however, the performance I enjoyed the most was in John Travolta’s. Bringing the emotional depth of Archer’s character in the first act, it’s just watching Travolta play the part of Castor Troy in such an over-the-top way outside of the scenes with Archer’s family (‘Oooee you’re good lookin’!’) that are a delight to watch. Granted alot of people will still moan about the ‘Hollywood ending’ at the end but from the action sequences to the two memorable lead performances, it’s definitely a film worth checking out if you’re a fan of the action thriller genre.


FAVOURITE SCENE: The memorable introduction of Castor Troy at the Convention Center planting the bomb, dressed as a minister, headbangs to a choir singing ‘Hallelujah’ and grope one of the girls in said choir.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘The eternal battle between good and evil, saint and sinner… but you’re still not having any FUN!’ – Castor Troy

DID YOU KNOW?: Originally Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were in mind to play the lead roles, but when John Woo was brought in to direct, he decided that John Travolta and Nicolas Cage would be more suited to the roles.

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