Everyone knows what can hype do to you. It sticks in to your brain and never lets go until satisfied. Fortunately, it did make me watch this movie, and this being one of the first Woo movies, I was totally blown away. It’s worthy of the many rewatches and analysis I have given it since.
The movies twisting personalities starts in a frantic and chilling way. Sean Archer (the ageless Travolta), whose an FBI agent, has constantly been on the chase for elusive terrorist Castor Troy (a wide-eyed Nicholas Cage), but one day while Archer is at a fairground with his son, a murderous Troy attempts to kill him but it goes wrong and his son is killed. Archer, fueled by vengeance goes after Troy even more frantically, eventually catching him after a bombastic airport chase. He’s believes him dead, but turns out he’s comatose. Why keep him ALIVE?? Because they found a disk from his kid brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), who is Troy’s mascot, that Castor has set up a bomb with huge destructive potential somewhere in the Hollywood area. Archer tries to shake Troys friends and his kid brother to find out where the ticking bomb is, but nothing. What’s his only choice? To somehow become Castor Troy. How? With what? (drumrollllll….cough!). By using FACIAL SURGERY THAT takes his face/off AND REPLACES IT WITH ANOTHER ONE. Do you get that? Yup, Face/Off, very clever. His plan is to become Castor and go to jail and persuade Pollux to tell the whereabouts of the bomb, and then pull him out. However, unknown to him Castor awakes from his coma and soon KILLS EVERYONE THAT KNOWS about the mission (Its a black operation, where only a tiny handle of people know), not before forcing the doctor to transform him into Archer, destroying the original Archer’s plans and life. So the true Archer must stop the fake Archer before its too late.
Confusing stuff right? But that’s the movies key to originality, and it works. Based on that, it heads off on another twist that basically reflects into the core principles of method acting, which is imitation at any cost. The films subtext analyses one way of impersonating someone, since you see Troy become Archer and then turns Archers family upside down and downside up. The original Archer’s spouse, Eve (Joan Allen), is shocked at the sudden appetite for bedroom acrobatics when before he was full of anger and revenge. Along with that he encourages Archer’s daughter Jamie’s (Dominique Swain) rebellion. The very same paradox happens with Archer as Troy who flips personality and mood up and down.While this might seem like an actors dream come true, it shows you the challenges of being someone else while trying to imitate that someone in its fullest range. The feat of Travolta playing Cage and vice versa, basically gives the movie its true originality. This movie does need multipe rewatches to draw its best out but it’s there, schizophrenically waiting for you….