It’s hard to believe that Face/Off shot onto screens ten years ago. Ten years. And, not surprisingly, the film still holds up. The action is still just as intense as it was then, the acting as solid as it could be. Who knew that from such a seemingly silly plot, a great movie would barrel forth. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoy it now. Thankfully, Paramount has opted to give us a music-deserved two-disc set for this release. And, much like the movie, it’s good.
FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) knows how to stop elusive terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). He’ll become him. Archer undergoes a futuristic surgery and has Troy’s face mapped onto his, then infiltrates the terrorist’s world to discover his deadly secrets. But as much as Archer looks and acts like Troy, he doesn’t really know him. He never figures Troy will retaliate and force doctors to transform him into Archer. Now the agent faces a shattering nightmare: his archrival is living with his family. The Travolta/Cage star-power comes on strong and so does the excitement in this roaring thrill machine of a movie directed by John Woo (Broken Arrow). So buckle up. It’s going to be a furious fight.
The plot of the movie, as you can tell by the synopsis above, is pretty out there. I know most movies ask you to suspend your disbelief for the duration of the flick, but this movie? Well, it asks you to pretty much ignore everything you ever learned, because the second you turn that brain on . . . well, there’s going to be questions. Like, did people forget about fingerprinting? How could the voicechip be so durable in one scene, and so flimsy the next? There’s really so many, but they don’t seem to matter. And why? Because John Woo just makes us forget all of these questions. As Face/Off unfolds, it sucks you right in. It really, really does. Then you start to forget about all those pesky things that may bother you. And why? Because you’re too busy with the insane amount of action unfolding on the screen.
And yes, this movie is piles with action, from top to bottom. The sheer amount of gunplay and explosions is enormous, even to recent movies. I think this may be the busiest, most violent movie John Woo has done during his Hollywood days. If anything, it blows his other work, like Mission: Impossible II, out of the water. And there’s one scene, which involves a lot of heavy artillery, that always stood out for me. It’s when Archer and Troy face off, post-op, and the entire scene is silent, save for “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” playing on a child’s headset. It always reminded me of what Woo said of his movies. He directs his action movies as if they were ballets, or operas, and this quote seems to really come alive in this scene. It’s very well done, and a great scene, overall.
Much of the fun of is due to the performances of Travolta and Cage. These guys just give it their all, and they’re having a lot of fun with it. It’s a pretty unique opportunity to be given roles that are so loony as this, and you have to admit they pull it off well. You can actually tell, as they stated, these two actors studied each other. They do very convincing work and, even if you can’t accept the plot, it does sell the movie. They seem to be having a blast here, and who could blame them? They pretty much switch roles in the movie! The fact that both characters are also more complex than the standard hero and villain helps a lot.
If there’s any fault with the movie, it’s a shade too long (like most John Woo movies). Clocking in at a daunting 140 minutes, Face/Off could have easily been trimmed in a few places, without any lose of the story. However, the running time does pass quickly. As the movie plows forward, and the action scenes pick up, the pace does seem to quicken. The movie’s length could start causing a problem toward the end of the flick, especially in some of the quieter scenes. Still, it’s hard to complain when you’ve got this much action, suspense and drama crammed into one fun movie.
So, how does the Face/Off: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition DVD stack up? The movie is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track and an English DTS 6.1 track. The extras are spread across both discs for this release, starting off with two feature-length Audio Commentaries. One is with John Woo and co-writers Michael Colleary and Mike Werb, and the other with just the two writers. After that, there’s a helping of Deleted & Alternate Scenes, lasting just over eight minutes in length. After that, and the usual trailers, we head over to the second disc, which begins with the five-part “The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off” documentary. That’s followed up with the short documentary “John Woo: A Life in Pictures.” Finally, the second disc wraps up with the film’s theatrical trailer. Overall, a very tidy and excellent collection of bonus material.
If you’re a fan of great action movies, then Face/Off: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition comes Highly Recommended. The movie is slick, stylish, absolutely unbelievable, but completely fun. Every absurd plot point just melts away as the action unfolds. Plus, with the conventional cat and mouse plot is given such a brilliant reversal, completely sold by the talented leads. While the movie can get so over-the-top and even cartoony, it’s just a pure fun ride from start to finish. Add on some great bonus material, and this is really easy and affordable purchase to make! I don’t know what happened to Woo after this movie (Windtalkers? Mission: Impossible II?), but this still reigns as one of the best action films ever made, and, if you haven’t seen it, you should really see what all the fuss is about.
Face/Off: 2-Disc Special Collector’s Edition hits DVD and HD-DVD on September 11th, 2007.