|Face/Off is a 1997 American action thriller film directed by John Woo, starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. The two both play an FBI agent and a terrorist, sworn enemies who assume the physical appearance of one another. The film exemplifies Woo’s signature gun fu and heroic bloodshed action sequences, and has Travolta and Cage each playing two personalities. It was the first Hollywood film in which Woo was given complete creative control and was acclaimed by both audiences and critics. Eventually grossing $245 million worldwide, Face/Off was a financial success.|
FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has a personal vendetta against civil freelance terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) after Castor killed Archer’s son Michael while trying to assassinate Archer. Archer learns of Castor’s brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), making arrangements for a private jet, and sets a trap to capture both Castor and Pollux. During the operation, Castor gloats about a bomb he has planted somewhere in Los Angeles, but he is knocked into a coma during the firefight. Though Castor and Pollux are captured, and the plans for the bomb found in Pollux’s suitcase, Archer has no clue to its location. He agrees to undergo an experimental face transplant surgery, giving him the appearance of Castor; this process is only known to his immediate supervisors and Dr. Walsh who performs the surgery. Archer is taken to an offshore high security prison, Erewhon Prison, and meets with Pollux, eventually gaining his confidence to learn the bomb’s location.
During this, Castor wakes from his coma and discovers the face transplant and Archer’s plan. He contacts his agents who force Dr. Walsh to give him Archer’s face, and then kill him and Archer’s superiors. Just as Archer contacts the police to pass along the information, Castor arrives at the prison and taunts Archer, revealing he will now take over his life, including Archer’s wife Eve (Joan Allen) and teenage daughter Jamie (Dominique Swain). Castor frees Pollux and “locates” his bomb and deactivates it, earning praise from the FBI. His offbeat personality earns Castor respect, whereas Archer was more prone to ruining celebrations with reminders of the loss of life involved. Simultaneously, Archer escapes from Erewhon during a riot, during which all guards are slaughtered and the prison is completely destroyed, and soon locates Castor’s old hideout. There, he meets several of Castor’s gang, including Castor’s ex-girlfriend Sasha Hassler (Gina Gershon) and Castor’s and her son, Adam, who resembles Michael at that age. Though initially believing that Adam should be sent to child protective services, Archer finds Sasha to be a caring mother trying to raise her son all alone in rough conditions and feels bad for threatening her earlier. Meanwhile after rescuing Jamie from being raped, Castor reaches out to her and learns that she hasn’t forgiven Archer for the death of her younger brother, Michael.
When Castor (as Archer) learns of the prison break, he suspects that Archer will connect with his gang, and leads an FBI raid of his headquarters. During the battle, many of Castor’s gang are killed, while Archer kills Pollux, infuriating Castor. Castor is berated by FBI Director in Charge, Victor Lazarro, but in his anger, Castor kills him, feigning that Lazarro suffered a heart attack. Castor is promoted to acting Director in Charge, making him virtually untouchable. Meanwhile, Archer returns to his home and convinces Eve, a doctor herself, that he is Archer, which she later confirms via a blood sample she takes from Castor who is sleeping next to her. She helps to tend to his wounds, and explains that Castor will be at Lazarro’s funeral the next day in a local church.
Archer waits to confront Castor at the funeral, but finds that Castor has taken Eve hostage. He tells Archer that he was trying to assassinate him, but accidentally killed Michael and history will repeat itself with both Eve and Jamie’s deaths. A gunfight ensues between Castor, Archer and Castor’s gang, under Archer’s orders. Sasha helps to rescue Eve, but takes a bullet in protecting Archer; he promises to look after Adam as she dies. Castor attempts to take Jamie hostage, but she retaliates by using a self-defense tactic (using a pocket butterfly knife) that Castor had taught her. Castor tries to escape using a nearby speedboat, followed closely by Archer. The two boats crash ashore, and the two men turn to melee. Castor, finding himself being overpowered, attempts to damage his face as to make it unusable by Archer, but Archer kills him using a spear gun. As the FBI arrive, Eve is able to explain Archer’s true identity. The face transplant surgery reversed, Archer returns to his family, helping to welcome Adam into his family, fulfilling his promise to Sasha.