The first time I watched Face/Off, it was about 30 minutes in, when I exclaimed “Wait! They’re seriously going to switch faces? That’s honestly the plot of this movie? How is this possible?” I’m assuming a bit of cocaine was involved, but yes, that is the plot the 1997 Nic Cage, John Travolta epic. It is real, and it is glorious.

The story begins when Castor Troy, aka Nic Cage, attempts to assassinate FBI agent Sean Archer, aka John Travolta, on a haunted carousel. Unfortunately, Troy accidently murders Agent Archer’s son, and the great rivalry is born. 

Six years later, Archer is wearing his best pair of sassy pants, and having a meltdown at the Bureau trying to figure out what Castor Troy is up to. We see our villain calmly installing a bomb in the LA Convention center while dressed as a Cardinal (no, not the bird). Castor Troy celebrates his success by busting out a head-banging-dance move to Halleluja, causing me to piss my pants. I plan to re-enact the entire Hallelujah dance as I walk down the aisle on my wedding day. It is delightful, until he gropes a choir girl. 

Castor meets up with his brother, Pollux, at the airport, and the first major action scene begins. We get a high speed truck vs airplane chase (inspiration for the Furious 6 scene?), a helicopter crashing onto an airplane, and then the airplane crashing through a hanger. Sparks literally start flying as Castor, Archer and Co engage in a shootout, complete with plenty of death, destruction, sparks, and slow-mo. Somehow, Archer lands on top of Troy in a beautiful, borderline-erotic entanglement, which leads to a gun-pointing stand-off peppered with cheesy one-liners and a gross mention of Archer’s daughter’s “ripeness.” Seeing Travolta and Cage face off (ha!) against one another reminded me of a campy version of when De Niro and Pacino do so in Heat. 

Sean Archer defeats Castor Troy, and gets to go home to his wife and aforementioned daughter, who.is.awful. We get hints of her Teen Angst through her amateur drag makeup, hedgehog hair and leather jacket. She also stomps around the living room FURIOUSLY, which must be a family trait because Sean Archer does the exact same thing the next day at work. 

He is SO unprofessional and borderline hysterical. If a woman ever behaved that way in an office, she’d be chloroformed and thrown in an asylum.  And! Archer is bad at his job, because he’s unable to discern the whereabouts of the bomb after poorly interrogating Troy’s ex-gf Sasha (aka Gina Gershon or GG) and GG’s brother, who has mismatched eyes and very nice veneers. Thus, the only way for SA to save the day, is for him to go deep undercover as CT… BY SURGICALLY WEARING HIS FACE AND SURPRISINGLY FIT BODY! 

At the Walsh Institute, SA touches his face a lot because foreshadowing, and this movie is nothing if not subtle. But SA gets on board with the LITERALLY UNBELIEVABLE plan way too quickly. Like, sir, “if this doctor can do half of what he says he can” you will be maimed as some half-Troy-half-Archer-full-chest-hair beast. Is it too much to ask for a little struggle as these characters grapple with the situation? 

No, you’re right, let’s just put Travolta’s face in a vat of Hpnotiq and get on with it. 

Now, Nic Cage is playing Sean Archer As Castor Troy (SAACT) and It. Is. Spectacular. Every emotion is written all over his face; joy! Fear! Horror! A glorious “Fuck you!” rant takes place post surgery, at which point everyone involved probably wished there was a pre-op psych test or a social worker on call to deal with the fact that an FBI agent just SWITCHED FACES WITH A TERRORIST and is now assuming a new identity. As SAACT regains his composure, he says, “When this is over, I want you to take this face, and BURN IT!” and I laugh-cried for an entire minute. 

SAACT goes to jail to gather intel from Pollux about where the bomb is planted. Andy Bellefleur starts a fight with SAACT and, realizing that Pollux is suspicious of him, SAACT goes absolutely bonkers, and beats the shit out of Andy Bellefleur in order to convince everyone that he’s Castor Troy. Whooooooo

Back at the hospital, the real CT bolts up out of a medically induced coma, which further proves that Dr. Walsh is not running a very professional or well staffed operation, and discovers his face has been taken. Nic Cage gives a marvelous performance, (“Bra-fucking-vo!”) as Dr. Walsh is kidnapped in order to perform the surgery again. Then, everyone involved in the operation is burned to death, and Castor Troy as Sean Archer (CTASA) heads over to the magnet prison to keep SAACT abreast of the situation. 

Naturally, SAACT has a meltdown, and eventually, with the help of Andy Bellefleur and lots of sparks, he breaks out of prison. 

Meanwhile, CTASA has settled into home life with the Archers. He has a gross interaction with his new daughter, who is smoking cigarettes in her underwear with the door open, naturally. At the office, CTASA is actually a better agent than the Real Sean Archer. “When all else fails, FRESH TACTICS!” CTASA finds and disarms the bomb he planted, and then sexually harasses his secretary, before heading home to woo Dr. Eve with some lobster, spaghetti, soggy artichokes and kebabs. 

The dinner scene makes me uncomfortable for two reasons. One; the spread. Seriously, who planned that hodgepodge of a meal? None of the foods compliment one another, and the only lobster and pasta I fuck with is this. And two, the sex between Dr. Eve and CTASA which is implied more than once within the film. If the two had sex, it would seem that Dr. Eve consented to having sex with her husband. While Dr. Eve would have consented to sex with her husband, she was actually having sex with CTASA, someone she did not consent to. Therefore, there was a lack of consent in their sexual intercourse, and ipso facto, lack of consent equals rape, no matter what the Oklahoma courts say. 

The last thing I want to do when watching an absurd action film is grapple with the implications of sex, consent, and rape. But the film quickly moves on, and we can become distracted by Nic Cage’s phenomenal acting once more.  

After breaking out of jail, SAACT visits his buddy with the mismatched eyes to ask for help. SAACT explains, while tracing his face, that he’d like to cut off Agent Archer’s face and put it on his own. Please go watch the scene because Nic Cage gives an Oscar-worthy performance. YES, YOU HEARD ME! NIC CAGE DESERVED AN OSCAR FOR HIS WORK IN FACE/OFF AND I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THE ACADEMY FOR SNUBBING HIM! 

Mismatched eyed-guy is the only person who reacts appropriately when told of the plan, and wisely says, “no more drugs for that guy!” 

After passing out, SAACT wakes up in Gina Gershon’s bed, which begs the question, do these criminals all live in a loft in DTLA together? Like in the New Girl? And if so, does that make CT Zooey Deschanel? (No, you’re right, he’s Schmitt.) Also, not to be a bad feminist and judge another woman’s parenting choices, but why is GG raising her son in a criminal commune? 

Nic Cage gives another OSCAR WORTHY PERFORMANCE in this scene, meeting GG’s child who looks like SA’s dead son. So much face work is done in this scene; the expressions on Nic Cage’s face, SAACT trying to face palm the kid’s face, yet all of this face play is interrupted when the New Girl Loft is attacked by CTASA and his FBI team. 

Sparks start flying, again, and while it is a cheesy trope, I love the juxtaposition of slow-mo gangbusters violence over an easy listening version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Surprisingly, the GG’s child does not die in the violence, but her brother (who kisses her very incestuously) and all of the other FBI agents do. 

After some classic CTASA sass (“I don’t know what I hate wearing worse; your face or your body!”). Cage and Travolta FACE/OFF (LOL) in another gun pointing standoff, which turns into a gun shooting ballet amongst mirrors (why are there so many mirrors in the Terrorist New Girl Loft?). Pollux falls through the glass ceiling (insert joke about women in the workplace) and dies. 

SCACT breaks into his own home to tell his wife what has happened. The only way to prove that he’s the right man in the wrong body is with a blood test which Dr. Eve successfully executes. SAACT is at the hospital lab for the reveal, and again, as a clincher, does that weird face palming, finger cascading, strange family secret handshake-to-the-face-thing. And again,  a character in this movie is way too calm and accepting about what has happened right off the bat. 

A united front, the married couple plot a take down of CTASA at his dead boss’s funeral, which is on the beach. The doves and religious iconography are especially lovely in slow motion, and after a brief standoff with all parties involved (“What a predicament!) bullets, doves, and sparks fly. GG dies and CTASA licks Daughter Archer’s face. Terrified and emotionally destroyed, she screams, “will someone please tell me what planet I’m on!?” 

A planet where a movie John Travolta and Nic Cage switch faces is 1. Real. and 2. Almost two and a half hours long. 

We’ve got one more big action scene, where the guys commandeer some powerboats and initiate my favorite action sequence of the entire film. CTASA’s red boat crashes THROUGH another boat in a fiery demon boat birth, and the additional stunts are spectacular.  SAACT, while hanging off the side of CTASA’s boat, eventually gains stability by WATER SKIING ON HIS DRESS SHOES!? It’s all so ridiculously absurd and long that eventually, it’s over stimulating and you’re ready for the film to end. 

After crashing the boats there’s a fisticuffs between our main characters and it’s like, just die already. CTASA does a face trace with a knife in hopes of destroying SAACT’s plan to regain his body and life. But our hero prevails, and with a kick of the balls and pulling of the trigger, the great struggle ends with a death by harpoon. 

Dr. Eve says they’ve got the best doctors from DC coming in to help get Archer back in the right face and body, which I don’t buy for a second because this is LA, and I’m pretty sure the best plastic and reconstructive surgeons are already here. All’s well that ends well, as the SA gets his face back, all of Daughter Archer’s angst is resolved by washing her face and brushing her hair, and they steal GG’s son and raise him as a replacement for their dead son. No one needs any therapy at all! 

Or shots of booze for that matter, as this movie is so bonkersauce you don’t need or want anything to interfere with Nic Cage’s OSCAR WORTHY PERFORMANCE.


02/17/2017 4:23pm

I have the same sentiments like you about this film. I was 11 years old when I first get to watch it. If I’m not mistaken, I knew we’ve watched it still in tapes or in CD’s. Those times I’ll never forget how truly amazed I was with the surgery. I even wonder if that was possible in real life. I even covered my eyes when they did the operations. That was a turning point in my life that I can’t stand seeing blood and I can’t be in any medical field, professionally.

03/06/2017 2:01am

This is a classical movie. What can I say more? Just watch it.

08/16/2017 1:58am

Thanks for the great tutorial. It is nice to go through the process at a high level.


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