Director: John Woo
Thank God for John Woo, the best action director in the world. He’s the man who brings poetry to violence and who films shoot-outs like ballets. John Woo doesn’t do dumb macho action movies. Sure, he directs some huge, wild and violent action scenes. Only, there’s soul in his work. In movies like “Face/Off”, you care about the characters, you live with them. This film is filled with emotion, and the story and the characters are even more important than the guns.
The plot is fantastic. It starts out like an archetypal Woo flick. You’ve got Sean Archer, FBI agent, and his nemesis, Castor Troy, an international terrorist. It’s the battle between good and evil. The plot thickens when, in order to stop a bomb, Archers has to put on Troy’s face, get into prison and get information from Pollux, Castor’s brother. Unfortunately, the real Troy wakes up, faceless, takes Archer’s face and destroys all evidence of the operation. So you’ve got Archer, the good guy, in prison, and Troy, the terrorist, in the place of a respected FBI agent. That totally original storyline brings exciting twists. Troy uses Swat teams and cops to kill Archer, while Archer befriends with Troy’s crooked friends. The screenplay is inventive, intelligent and sometimes very funny.
The characters are very well written. They’re also extremely well played by a top notch cast, led by Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. In the beginning, Travolta is Archer. He’s real, touching. Then, he becomes Troy. He’s totally wacked-out in this role. He’s really having fun. Cage is even better as Troy. He’s one of the coolest action stars because he acts like no one else. Here, he plays terrorist Castor Troy like some lunatic Liberace. He’s dressed cool, with sunglasses and gold guns, and he acts like a madman. When Cage becomes Archer, he’s also really good. He’s riveting; you can see his character’s pain in his eyes.
But to me, the real star of the film is John Woo. His filmmaking is brilliant. His unique camerawork is dazzling and he handles every scene masterfully. Every scene is great, and many scenes are amazing: the black & white opening, the many Mexican standoffs, Cage, faceless, smoking casually a cigarette… In fact, I could mention 50 great moments at least. I’ll only highlight the church scene, a very impressive sequence. The photography is fabulous, it’s action-packed but it’s also full of smart dialogue and twists involving the characters. After that, it’s the explosive climax. Some critics thought there were too much chases near the end. They’re wrong! The finale of “Face/Off” is one of the greatest action scenes ever. The final fight between Archer and Troy is as intense as it gets, and “Face/Off” is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen.