Face/Off (1997) : Freaky Friday Reimagined [Mike’s Review]
Today on Cage Club we switch places with our mortal enemy in Face/Off. This rounds out the Cage Action Trilogy and what an amazing conclusion it is. Just when I thought they hit the ceiling with Con Air, it turns out that ceiling was made of glass and a few rounds of ammo can shatter that shit to shards exposing the open sky which is the new limit. Face/Off takes full advantage of fuzzy logic, genre blending and action movie cliche to bring it’s crazy story to life in a perfect way. This is one part Science Fiction, one part Romantic Drama, one part Crime Thriller knitted seamlessly into an Action quilt of greatness. I remember at this time actually being more of a Travolta fan than Cage. I still loved Cage, but Travolta was right in the middle of his big 90’s comeback thanks to Pulp Fiction. I never really considered him a viable action star, but then again I never though of Cage as one either but he proved me wrong after the last two movies. Both Cage and Travolta are two of the worlds biggest stars at this point, Cage being a “new breed” of Action star and Travolta experiencing a “come back”. The timing was perfect and we are all rewarded for everyone seizing this moment to create a cinema masterpiece.
The movie stars Cage as Castor Troy, terrorist for hire. He is being hunted by Sean Archer played by John Travolta. He is an FBI agent who’s son was murdered by Troy in a failed assassination attempt on Archer’s life. Archer is obsessive about catching Troy, at the expenses of his remaining family life. When he tracks Castor Troy to an Airstrip we see why these two are considered to be the top in their fields. There is an amazing chase scene between Hummers and an Airplane culminating in a gun fight inside the plane hanger where Archer gets his man and Troy is presumed dead. This is all great except the cops find plans for a bomb with Troy’s personal effects which leads them to suspect ( correctly ) a bomb has been planted somewhere in the Los Angeles area. The only hope in finding the location of the bomb is to go undercover in prison and gain the confidence of Castor Troy’s brother, Pollux. The only person Pollux trusts is his presumed dead brother Castor so it looks like LA is going bye, bye. Not quite because it turns out a Black Ops team is keeping Castor’s body alive in a coma so they can use him for their big plan. The idea is for Archer to become his nemesis by switching faces and infiltrating the prison to talk to his brother. The plan works really well at first, and Archer get’s Pollux to let slip the location of the Bomb they did indeed plant. Then everything goes to hell when Castor wakes up from his coma, without his face and really pissed off. He forces the doctors to do the procedure on him, giving him Archer’s face. The switch is made ! Archer thinks he is getting out of jail and expects to be greeted by his friend but instead is greeted by himself, that is, Castor Troy in Sean Archer’s body !!!! This scene is excellent and encapsulates the entire reason for the movie existing. Cage does a good job adding Travolta mannerisms to his performance but Travolta embodies Nic Cage, doing a full on impression that matches speech patters and body language. It feels like I am watching two Nic Cages !!! This is the turning point where the two are completely in each other’s body. Now Troy as Archer will diffuse his own bomb and become a hero while Archer as Troy will rot in jail forever, or at least until Archer escapes. This movie is so crazy that they throw in a good old fashioned Prison Escape in the middle of it. Archer enlists the help of Troy’s allies but everything is just ending in gun fights with no resolution so Archer visits his wife and tries to convince her of the truth by testing their blood, the one thing about them the doctors could not change. This proves useful and Archer’s wife is on his side when the finale arrives. More gunfights, a boat chase and a brawl on the beach pack the third act with enough set pieces and action to suffice another entire movie. In the end, Archer prevails and completely snuffs all the evil life from Castor Troy. Archer also manages to work through the trauma of losing his son by living as the man who killed him for a week or so, only to emerge out the other side of the experience a stronger person. Sure there is a ton of stuff I did not cover but so much happens in Face/Off it would be impossible for me to cover it all succinctly in a blog post.
I love this premise and it reminds me of the old “body swapping” comedies of the past, such as Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, All of Me. There is an entire genre of Body Swap movies out there that this fits right into, but I think this is the only one that is rated R, and has lots of explosions. Watching Face/Off this time I couldn’t help but think about changing the face replacement procedure with some type of consciousness swapping machine instead. Sure, it’s not as original and fun and maybe would fit better if this took place far in the future, but it could have worked just at least as well.
As mentioned in the previous two posts pertaining to the use of practical effects, I feel now that this movie more than the others represents the lost era of practical effects. Hong Kong action movie veteran John Woo is notorious for not using computer enhancement, brining a realism to his movies that help ground the world in a reality while the plot runs off the charts. I consider the Cage Action Trilogy to be the end of an Era. Moving forward we will have the CGI soaked Matrix clones, and less will do it well than most. The Star Wars Prequels are in the batter’s box as well, swinging a huge nail for the practical effects coffin. Superhero movies are on the distant horizon as the new kings of summer, but for me, Face/Off will achieve more than all those movies put together because I can feel the realness.
That does it for this Cage Club entry and that will do it for the Cage Action Trilogy. I can’t believe it’s over. We at Cage Club were so looking forward to this week and it proved not to disappoint at all. It’s been some of the best podcasts I think we have recorded and some of the most fun conversations about movies I have ever had. I am sad this portion of the club is over but much like Nic Cage, we must movie on to the next movie and other types of genre. Next up we have City Of Angles, which is a remake of a foreign film “Wings Of Desire”. Nic Cage plays an Angel that falls in love with a Human, I think. I only saw this once and I was half paying attention. I look forward to seeing how Cage is going to portray an Angel. I am sure he will have some tricks up his sleeve.