It’s hard to believe that Face/Off is already ten years old. While I had never seen the film until this DVD release I can remember it hitting theaters. At the time John Travolta was the big name and Nicolas Cage the up and coming star (it was, at least, the first time I’d heard of him in such a big role. Then again I was ten at the time; so really, my memory is not the best to go off of). Still, I’d always held a desire to see the film and this DVD finally awarded me this chance. Not only did I finally get to view the film after all these years, but the extras contained on the set are wonderful as well.
The film follows FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) who has been hunting Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage) since Troy attempted to shoot Archer, which resulted in a chest wound for Archer and a head wound for Archer’s son, who was currently next to his father. Devastated by the loss of his young son, Archer lives and breathes Castor Troy’s life before eventually watching him die during a massive shootout in an airplane hangar.
I was shocked how early they killed off Castor Troy in the film and, as I stated above, having not seen the film before, I took the title Face/Off to mean a showdown, not a literal face removal. Oddly enough I didn’t have any trouble suspending my belief that such a surgical procedure could be done—although I now question how the eye lids, nose and lips all came off so perfectly—and the rest of the film really didn’t seem all that incredulous once you got past the identity switch.
What really works in the film is the switch the characters take in the film. I don’t like Travolta as a dramatic actor and I find he works best as goofy or comedic characters, so when he switched to Castor Troy, it became immediately more enjoyable. On the flip side, Cage does both so well that I actually saw some of his Castor Troy character bleed into Travolta’s portrayal, especially with a few hand and head movements and line deliveries. Very cool.
There are a few missed opportunities in the film, mainly from the Castor Troy (Travolta) portion. Troy in Archer’s house, with his wife and kid, just seemed to be an odd mix at times. Particularly confusing was the defense of Archer’s daughter when she was in the car with her boyfriend. Troy comes at the guy full force and acts very fatherly to the daughter, which is highly strange has he treats everything else like Troy would. You almost feel that Troy is feeling some intense remorse for the accidental murder of Archer’s son until the end of the film, when he asks Archer why couldn’t just “let it go.”
One thing I can’t let go undiscussed was the action in the film—talk about relentless! I began to wonder if the final showdown between the two guys would ever come and I started laughing to myself as they sped across the water, but even as I found it ridiculous that one of them was taking so long to die, I realized I didn’t really want the film to end. The action sequences looked and sounded so great that I didn’t want it to end.
The film walks the line between generic summer popcorn flick to one with genuine heart, particularly from the John Archer (Nicholas Cage) portrayal. Mixed in with the drama is a heavy helping of comedy, both dark and light (this is starting to sound like the description for a bucket of KFC), and the movie is just an all around delight to watch. It has its weak story points, but it’s easily forgiven when you do nothing else but sit down to enjoy a film. Highly Recommended.
Of course Face/Off has been available on home video before, but this release is not like the previous DVD. Spread across two discs, Face/Off: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition arrives in a two-disc amaray slip case with an identical cardboard slip cover. On the inside are the DVDs, one on each side of the packaging (no flip tray in this release), against a black gloss backdrop. Menus for the DVD are fully animated and easy to navigate.
First up for this portion of the review is the video and audio transfer. Having not seen the previous release, I can’t compare the two, but this release looks and sounds terrific. I’ve seen films from the 90s on DVD that look much older than they are, but Face/Off looks absolutely terrific. Everything looks like it was just shot yesterday and there isn’t a single video transfer flaw I noticed. On top of that are two superb audio mixes, a 5.1 Dolby Surround and a 6.1 DTS. Having watched the entire film with the DTS track, I have to say I was blown away by the mix. During the action sequences, rear channels were just as active as the front and the subwoofer got plenty of use, allowing you to feel every bullet fired from the guns. Both the 5.1 Dolby and 6.1 DTS tracks are excellent, but, as usual, the DTS track is superior. Both the film and all of the extras are presented in anamorphic widescreen and contain English, French and Spanish subtitles, except the trailer which contains no subtitles.
On the first disc we have a set of commentaries, one by director John Woo and writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary and another with just Werb and Colleary. Both commentaries are a delight to listen to, even though some information is repeated in both. Werb and Colleary’s commentary is far more detailed, while Woo’s commentary is more laid back in nature. If you enjoyed the film, you’ll no doubt enjoy both commentaries; I preferred the Woo one just a bit more, if only because we got to hear from all three at once.
Also on the first disc are the Deleted/Alternate scenes, seven in all, with a short runtime. The deleted scenes are your usual fair and you aren’t missing too much by having them cut and the alternate ending to the film is a bit too ambiguous to be fully appreciated, compared to the one we did get in the film (even if the films ending was a little too picture perfect—although with this type of film, I guess you do want your heroes to live happily ever after). All of these scenes contain an optional commentary.
While one would think that would be enough for a film that is ten years old and doesn’t have too much of a cult following, per say, but nope! Paramount saw fit to throw in a second disc to this set and it’s fully loaded. A five part, sixty-four minute documentary covers the film from start to finish and is laden with storyboards, cast and crew interviews and special effects done on the film. If the movie wasn’t so entertaining, I’d almost be bored by what this documentary has to offer, but instead, like the film, I found it entertaining, no matter how long it seemed to go on for.
The above documentary is the real meat of the second disc, although a John Woo documentary (“A Life in Pictures”) is included as well, which runs near half an hour. It seems kind of sad to sum up his life in under half an hour, but I’m sure a future DVD special on one of his films will do him further justice, although this one is no slouch. Plenty of cool information is tossed around and it’s a real delight to watch regardless of the run time.
A theatrical trailer for the film closes out this second disc and brings this release to a close. With over six hours of special features in all when added up, this release will keep you watching well past the film itself. Like the film, this disc comes Highly Recommended.