160 - Face/Off (1997)

A top FBI agent takes on the appearance of a master criminal to discover the location of a hidden bomb.

FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been on the tail of criminal mastermind Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage) for years and when Troy is put into a coma, Archer realises that there is a planted bomb which Troy left as a legacy.

Using revolutionary technology, Archer is able to take the face of Troy in order to infiltrate the prison where Troy's brother is being held captive in order to find out the location of the bomb. When Troy somehow awakens from his coma though, Archer becomes trapped looking like Troy.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
It's a wonder that John McTiernan didn't have a huge panic when Face/Off was released. Nine years after Die Hard redefined the action genre, John Woo threatened to make Die Hard look like child's play. Sure, Die Hard is still the king of baddies and probably features a superior number of explosions, but Face/Off brought something completely new to the genre.

Face/Off contains much more than just blowing stuff up. Travolta and Cage are immense throughout actively portraying both the good and evil sides of each character. Woo includes two ingenious scenes - one sees the protagonists facing each other through a mirror with guns poised in a still that sums up everything the film is about. The other is more subtle as the characters hare down a river in "Heaven" white and "Hell" red boats.

It has its fair share of tender moments too. With the loss of Archer's son at the hand of Troy early in the film, it later becomes clear that both men are harbouring secret nurturing feelings. This gives each actor a chance to show their character unwillingly switching back to their former selves; Cage is far better as the bad guy and Travolta as the goodie although both men portray the confusion equally well.

The 'science' behind the film is a bit phoney - although perhaps much more believable now with real face transplants - especially with putting another face onto a completely different bone structure. Once you can get your head around that, and the changing of the actors, the film is certainly one of the most watchable action films ever made.

Highly recommended.