Face Off

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Face/Off is a 1997 action film directed by John Woo, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. The two both play an FBI agent and a terrorist, sworn enemies who assume the physical appearance of one another.
The film exemplifies 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, as well as Woo's highest-grossing American film.
Freelance terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) is relentlessly pursued by FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta). Years earlier, Castor, in
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To Woo's credit, he doesn't stick strictly to action. Face/Off is only in overdrive for about two-thirds of its running length. The rest of the movie is devoted to such mundane tasks and plot exposition, character and relationship development, and ruminations on philosophical issues like identity. While there's very little of the latter (certainly not enough to turn off viewers who don't like their action leavened with anything intellectual), there is enough to give Face/Off an interesting subtext. How much of who we are is determined by our physical appearance? And, if we're given the face of another, how like that person are we likely to become? These issues aren't explored too deeply, but, to Woo's credit (and to that of the screenplay, by Mike Werb & Michael Colleary), they are addressed.
Such weighty questions are posed because the two main characters swap faces and identities. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is a dedicated federal officer whose obsession with bringing down one particular master criminal, Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), has blinded him to all other concerns. Six years ago, Troy's attempt to kill Archer went wrong, and Archer's young son was killed. Since then, a thirst for revenge has driven the FBI agent to pursue Troy with a single-minded relentlessness that has alienated both his wife (Joan Allen) and his teenage daughter (Dominique Swain). When the latest
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