Face /Off is an out and out thriller, throw in sentiment for good measure, a few teary eyed moments and voila - a full thriller where you don’t have to think too much. The cops and robbers routine is taken to the next level when FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) loses his son to Castor Troy’s (Nicholas Cage) bullet - one which was meant for him.
Castor’s Achilles’ Heel is his brother Pollux Troy (Alessandro Nivola); they are both planning a bomb blast in LA - whilst Castor is severely wounded in the gun battle that ensues, Pollux, the only guy who knows the location of the bomb, is taken captive.
Meanwhile, the vegetated state of Castor ensures there’s no way he’s disclosing the whereabouts of the bomb, so it’s now left to Archer to step up to the moment.
In a bizarre proposal, doctors tell Archer he can take on Castor’s identity – by way of a ‘Face/Off’. He has so much at stake but mainly the memory of Michael, his son, needs to be laid to rest. And so agrees to get a new face, a new identity. After the operation, Archer (as Troy) is incarcerated in the same prison as Pollux, and manages to get the location of where the bomb is planted. The tricky part now is getting out unscathed from Erewhon prison.
Castor Troy, now faceless, arises like phoenix from the ashes, and manages to get a face for himself - that of his rival Archer. And along with the new identity he has certain perks – a lovely wife, a beautiful home and a whole lot of ways to make sure that he uses the FBI to get rid of Archer once and for all. In order to earn the trust and praise of the department, Castor defuses the bomb - and becomes a hero. He takes to his new role like a fish to water, while the actual Archer faces near death in a prison riot, but manages to escape; once out, his aim is to get in touch with all of Castor’s network - his buddies and girlfriend, included.
Déjà vu when Castor (actually Archer) sees Adam, Sasha’s son (Castor’s ex) - and memories of Michael come flooding back. On the other hand Archer (actually Troy) is making inroads with Jamie - the daughter, who says she can never bring herself to forgive her father for what happened to her brother Michael. Having climbed the upper echelons of the Department ladder, Archer now takes matters into his own hands after he kills an FBI big gun and is himself promoted to Assistant Director In charge - virtually untouchable AND hopping mad because Cage killed his brother Pollux.
Meanwhile the actual Archer (in guise of Troy, played by Cage) approaches Eve, his wife and convinces her that the man in her home is the impostor Castor Troy; she tells him that Troy will be attending the funeral of the official he’d killed. But Castor, a veteran to cat and mouse games, is a step ahead, and he takes Eve hostage. In the gun fu that ensues Castor manages to escape in a speed boat, only to be brought down by Archer, who wins back his family and self respect, with a second chance at caring for the child Adam, whose mother Sasha was killed in the crossfire.
John Woo is known for bringing the Asian character to his films - they may be a little over the top, however, audiences love them. Both Travolta and Cage were two actors he had worked with earlier in Broken Arrow and Windtalkers. An excellent play is conducted by Woo on the words and names in the Film. For instance, Castor and Troy, according to ancient Greek Mythology - are brothers who make up the constellation Gemini, the prison Erewhon is the word “nowhere” written backwards.
With a rousing musical score by Hans Zimmer, the Movie was well received by audiences and critics alike - it was nominated for the Academy Award for Sound Editing (70th Academy Awards, 1998), losing to the Titanic. It won the Best Action Scene in the MTV Movie Awards and the Best Directing and Writing in the Saturn Awards.