Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Woo|
|Produced by||David Permut
Barrie M. Osborne
|Written by||Mike Werb
|Music by||John Powell|
|Editing by||Christian Wagner|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
Buena Vista International
|Running time||138 minutes|
Face/Off is a 1997 American action thriller film directed by John Woo, starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. The two both play an FBI agent and a terrorist, sworn enemies who assume the physical appearance of one another. The film exemplifies Woo's signature gun fu and heroic bloodshed action sequences, and has Travolta and Cage each playing two personalities. It was the first Hollywood film in which Woo was given complete creative control and was acclaimed by both audiences and critics. Eventually grossing $245 million worldwide, Face/Off was a financial success.
FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (played by John Travolta) has a personal vendetta against civil freelance terrorist Castor Troy (played by Nicolas Cage) after Castor killed Archer's son Michael while trying to assassinate Archer. Archer learns of Castor's brother, Pollux Troy (played by Alessandro Nivola), making arrangements for a private jet, and sets a trap to capture both Castor and Pollux. During the operation, Castor gloats about a bomb he has planted somewhere in Los Angeles, but he is knocked into a coma during the firefight. Though Castor and Pollux are captured, and the plans for the bomb found in Pollux's suitcase, Archer has no clue to its location. He agrees to undergo an experimental face transplant surgery, giving him the appearance of Castor; this process is only known to his immediate supervisors and Dr. Walsh who performs the surgery. The medical operation is a success: Archer's hair, muscles and other necessary physical parts are altered into Castor's and his face is switched with Castor's, whose now faceless head is bandaged and Archer's face is stored in a tank of water. Archer (now played by Nicolas Cage) is taken to an offshore high security penitentiary, Erewhon Prison, and meets with Pollux, eventually gaining his confidence to learn the bomb's location.
During this, Castor unexpectedly wakes from his coma and discovers the face transplant and Archer's plan. He contacts his agents who force Dr. Walsh to place Archer's face on him, and then kill him and Archer's superiors. Just as Archer contacts the police to pass along the information, Castor (now played by John Travolta) arrives at the prison and taunts Archer, revealing he will now take over his life, including Archer's wife Eve (played by Joan Allen) and teenage daughter Jamie. Castor frees Pollux and "locates" his bomb and deactivates it, earning praise from the FBI. His offbeat personality earns Castor respect, whereas Archer was more prone to ruining celebrations with reminders of the loss of life involved. Simultaneously, Archer escapes from Erewhon during a riot, during which all guards are slaughtered and the prison is completely destroyed, and soon locates Castor's old hideout. There, he meets several of Castor's gang, including Castor's ex-girlfriend Sasha Hassler (played by Gina Gershon) and Castor's and her son, Adam, who resembles Michael at that age. Though initially believing that Adam should be sent to child protective services, Archer finds Sasha to be a caring mother trying to raise her son all alone in rough conditions and feels bad for threatening her earlier. Meanwhile after rescuing Jamie from an attempted date rape, Castor reaches out to her and learns that she hasn't forgiven Archer for failing to prevent the death of her younger brother, Michael.
When Castor learns of the prison break, he suspects that Archer will connect with his gang, and leads an FBI raid of his headquarters. During the battle, many of Castor's gang are killed, while Archer kills Pollux, infuriating Castor. Castor is berated by the FBI Assistant Director in Charge, Victor Lazarro, but in his anger, Castor kills him, feigning that Lazarro suffered a heart attack. Castor is promoted to acting Assistant Director in Charge, making him virtually untouchable. Meanwhile, Archer returns to his home and convinces Eve, a doctor herself, that he is Archer, which she later confirms via a blood sample she takes from Castor who is sleeping next to her. She helps tend to his wounds, and explains that Castor will be at Lazarro's funeral the next day in a local church.
Archer waits to confront Castor after the funeral, but finds that Castor has taken Eve hostage. A gunfight ensues between Castor, Archer and Castor's gang, under Archer's orders. Sasha helps rescue Eve, but takes a bullet in protecting Archer; he promises to look after Adam as she dies. Castor attempts to take Jamie hostage, but she retaliates by using a butterfly knife that Castor had taught her how to use. Castor tries to escape using a nearby speedboat, followed closely by Archer. The two boats crash ashore, and the two men turn to melee. Castor, finding himself being overpowered, attempts to damage Archer's own face on himself as to make it unusable by Archer, but Archer kills him using a spear gun. As the FBI arrive, Eve is able to explain Archer's true identity. With the face transplant surgery reversed, Archer (once again played by John Travolta) returns to his family, helping to welcome Adam into his family, fulfilling his promise to Sasha.
- John Travolta as Sean Archer / Castor Troy
- Nicolas Cage as Castor Troy / Sean Archer
- Joan Allen as Dr. Eve Archer
- Alessandro Nivola as Pollux Troy
- Gina Gershon as Sasha Hassler
- Dominique Swain as Jamie Archer
- Nick Cassavetes as Dietrich Hassler
- Harve Presnell as Victor Lazarro
- Colm Feore as Dr. Malcolm Walsh
- John Carroll Lynch as Guard Walton
- C. C. H. Pounder as Dr. Miller
- Robert Wisdom as Tito
- Margaret Cho as Wanda
- James Denton as Buzz
- Matt Ross as Loomis
Face/Off was a spec script which writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary tried to sell to a studio from as early as 1990. It took numerous studios, producers and rewrites before John Woo became attached several years later. For the Archer character, John Woo considered casting either Michael Douglas or Jean-Claude Van Damme whom he had worked with in Hard Target. When the film was eventually made, Douglas served as an executive producer. Werb and Colleary have cited White Heat (1949) and Seconds (1966) as influences on the plot.
When John Woo was initially offered the chance to direct, he declined unless the studio agreed to give him more creative control than he had received on his previous American films. Travolta had previously starred in Woo's Broken Arrow (Cage was later to star in another Woo film, Windtalkers). Woo set the movie in the present so he could focus on the psychological elements of the story, such as how the feud between the two men affects those close to them — such as Sasha and Adam and Archer's family.
The names Castor and Pollux come from a pair of brothers in Greek mythology that make up the Gemini constellation. The story itself, most notably the hatred between Archer and Castor, is very similar to that of Hector and Achilles, who fought against each other in the Trojan War. Additional influences may have come from the fact that the Greek and Roman god of archery, Apollo, was closely related with the city of Troy. The Archer is also the symbol of the Sagittarius constellation, symbolizing the clash between the opposing Sagittarius and Gemini constellations.
Additional symbolism is that Pollux is held at Erehwon, a prison so secret that even the inmates do not know its location. "Erehwon" is "nowhere" in reverse, an idea that also occurs in an allegorical novel by Samuel Butler.
Costing $80 million to make, Face/Off made heavy use of action set pieces including several violent shootouts and a boat chase while being filmed in the Los Angeles area. The boat scene at the end of the film was shot in San Diego.
Face/Off was released in North America on June 27, 1997 and earned $23 million on its opening weekend. It went on to become the 11th highest domestic and 14th worldwide grossing film of 1997, earning a domestic total of $112,276,146 and $133,400,000 overseas for a total of worldwide gross of $245,676,146. It was a successful box office hit.
The Region 1 DVD of Face/Off was one of the first films to be released on the format on October 7, 1998. A 10th Anniversary Collectors Edition was released on DVD September 11, 2007 and HD DVD October 30, 2007 in the United States. The new DVD is a 2-disc set including 7 deleted scenes, an alternate ending and several featurettes.
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on 1 October 2007 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and was released in the United States on 20 May 2008 by Paramount Home Entertainment.
Face/Off received mostly positive reviews from critics and garnered high box office earnings, making it a critical and financial success. The role reversal between Travolta and Cage was a subject of praise, as were the stylized, violent action sequences. Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four and remarked that "Here, using big movie stars and asking them to play each other, Woo and his writers find a terrific counterpoint to the action scenes: All through the movie, you find yourself reinterpreting every scene as you realize the "other" character is "really" playing it." Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said of the film, "You may not buy the premise or the windup, but with Travolta and Cage taking comic and psychic measures of their characters and their own careers, there is no resisting Face/Off. This you gotta see." Richard Corliss of Time Magazine said that the film "isn't just a thrill ride, it's a rocket into the thrilling past, when directors could scare you with how much emotion they packed into a movie."
Some critics felt the film's violence was excessive, and that the action sequences dragged out too long. Barbara Shulgasser of the San Francisco Examiner called the movie "idiotic" and argued that "a good director would choose the best of the six ways and put it in his movie. Woo puts all six in. If you keep your eyes closed during a Woo movie and open them every six minutes, you'll see everything you need to know to have a perfectly lovely evening at the cinema."
The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a "Fresh" rating of 91% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "Travolta and Cage play cat-and-mouse (and literally play each other) against a beautifully stylized backdrop of typically elegant, over-the-top John Woo violence." On Metacritic, the film received a metascore of 82 out of 100 from 25 critics, indicating "Universal acclaim". The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Sound Editing at the 70th Academy Awards, but lost to Titanic. Face/Off also won the Saturn Awards for Best Directing and Writing, and the MTV Movie Awards for Best Action Scene (the speedboat chase) and Best Duo for Travolta and Cage.
|Face/Off: Original Soundtrack Music By John Powell|
|Soundtrack album by John Powell|
|Released||July 1, 1997|
The Face/Off soundtrack was released by Hollywood Records on July 1, 1997, the week following the film's release.
- "Face On" – (4:57)
- "80 Proof Rock" – (4:29)
- "Furniture" – (7:12)
- "The Golden Section Derma Lift" – (3:15)
- "This Ridiculous Chin" (– 6:51)
- "No More Drugs For That Man" – (7:27)
- "Hans' Loft" – (3:37)
- "Ready For The Big Ride‚ Bubba" – (3:54)
- Orchestra Conducted By: Lucas Richman
- Orchestrated By: Bruce Fowler, Steven Fowler, Walt Fowler, Yvonne S. Moriarty, Ladd McIntosh and Lucas Richman
- Additional music
Several pieces of music and songs were used in the film but not included in the soundtrack. These include:
- "Since By Man Came Death" and "Hallelujah" from oratorio 'Messiah' - Handel
- Pamina's Aria "Ach, ich fühl's" from "Die Zauberflöte" - Mozart
- "Prelude in D-flat, Op. 28, No. 15 ('Raindrop')" - Chopin
- "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" - James Brown
- "Over the Rainbow" (Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg) - Olivia Newton-John
- "Christiansands" - Tricky
- "Don't Lose Your Head" - INXS
- "Miserere Mei, Deus (VV.1-4 & 17-20)" - Gregorio Allegri
- "Face/Off (1997)". Box Office Mojo. 1997-08-29. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
- Turan, Kenneth (1997-06-27). "John Travolta and Nicolas Cage get under each other's skin--literally--in John Woo's return to form, 'Face/Off'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-06.
- Yabroff, Jennie (1997-06-27). "Gentleman with a gun". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- Christopher Heard. Ten thousand bullets: the cinema of John Woo. Los Angeles: Lone Eagle Publ, 2000. ISBN 1-58065-021-X
- "Face/Off". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- "F ilming locations for Face/Off". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- "Release dates for Face/Off". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- "DVD details for Face/Off". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- Perenson, Melissa J. (2007-01-18). "New HD Disc Titles, New HD Disc Technology". PC World. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- "Face/Off (US - DVD R1 | HD | BD RA) in News > Releases at DVDActive". Dvdactive.com. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
- "Breaking: Paramount Unveils Blu-ray Launch Plans". High-Def Digest. 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
- Ebert, Roger (1997-06-27). "Face/Off". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- Travers, Peter (2001-02-09). "Face/Off". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- Corliss, Richard (1997-06-30). "ONE DUMB SUMMER: Reviews". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- Shulgasser, Barbara (1997-06-27). "Trading Faces". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- "Face/Off Reviews-Metacritic".
- "Face/Off awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
- Face/Off at AllMusic
- "Soundtracks for Face/Off". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Face/Off|
- Face/Off at the Internet Movie Database
- Face/Off at the TCM Movie Database
- Face/Off at allmovie
- Face/Off at Box Office Mojo
- Face/Off at Rotten Tomatoes
- Face/Off at Metacritic