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Post Info TOPIC: Where to begin a Nicolas Cage blog? With the quintessential Face/Off!

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Date: 2:32 PM, 08/01/13
Where to begin a Nicolas Cage blog? With the quintessential Face/Off!

My first review written for my blog on Nicolas Cage: Face/Off.

When I started this blog I wasn’t quite sure with what film I’d want to kick off my reviews of the films of Nicolas Cage. For one reason: his filmography is quite vast; clocking almost 70 films (and more to come). Also, the huge differences between some of his films (in quality and in tone/genre/style) make it hard to choose a good “entry-level” film that exemplifies the qualities of Nicolas Cage. Eventually, though, my eyes lay on John Woo’s Face/Off: A film that perfectly introduces the screen presence of Cage.

Please bear with me with the following description of the film’s plot, because it’s going to be complicated.

Face/Off, John Woo’s (Hardboiled, Mission: Impossible II) third American film, stars John Travolta as FBI Special Agent Sean Archer, a sober and driven man who dedicated his life to take revenge on freewheeling terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), the assassin of his son. The grief for his lost son results in Archer neglecting his wife and daughter; his wife hasn’t had sex in months and his daughter is full of teenage angst.

Quickly though, Archer seems to get his revenge when a vehicle and action packed shootout in and around an airport hanger results in Castor Troy getting incapacitated.

The villain seems to be defeated, but problems arise: Troy has planted a chemical bomb somewhere in LA. Time is ticking and the main source for information regarding the whereabouts of the bomb, Castor Troy, is in a coma. In order to save the day, Sean Archer –through an unlikely construction - has to become Castor Troy now to retrieve Intel on the bomb from Troy’s paranoid and incarcerated brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola).

This is where the plot gets interesting.

A surgeon switches Sean’s face with the face of Castor and alters the other bodily features of the reluctant agent. When Archer wakes up after the procedure, he wakes up in the body of his archenemy. Thus now Nicolas Cage has to act like he is the character of John Travolta!  

It gets even more interesting when, after Archer (still in the body of Troy/Cage) is being brought to the prison of Troy’s brother, Castor Troy wakes up from his coma without a face. He forces the same surgeon to perform the opposite transplantation: Caster Troy becomes Sean Archer, Nicolas Cage becomes John Travolta. After the operation Troy makes sure to neatly erase all the evidence of this operation (read: killing everyone involved)


Now the whole film revolts on the two actors acting like they are each other. This results in some brilliant bits. For instance John Travolta (with the personality of Cage’s character) making fun of his own ridiculous chin, or Nicolas Cage (with the personality of Travolta’s character) taking too much drugs with the villains henchmen: bragging - while probably tripping on drugs for the first time - “I’m going to take his face… Off!” followed by clumsily crawling over the floor.

For both of the rivals the physical metamorphosis has severe psychological implications as well. Villain and womanizer Troy has to play a family man, while white knight Archer reluctantly has to hang out with criminal friends and followers of Troy. Archer even finds out, without Troy knowing that his nemesis has a son of his own. Although both characters are clearly not comfortable in their role – which becomes painfully clear by the laughing of the characters that evolves in pitiful cries – they both bring some of the qualities of their personality (Archers’ conscience and Troy’s joyful swagger) to the lives of their opponents.

Still, this is all in between the over-the-top action scenes, with shootouts, set pieces and visual effects unlike any other film. Hyper stylized action scenes are a signature of John Woo, and this film is clearly no exception. Fireworks literally explode everywhere, while the hero and villain dive, roll and almost fly through the extravagant sets. In some films the action scenes can’t really keep me interested because of their lack of emotional significance and originality, but this films absurd and sometimes hilarious sequencing kept me very excited.

Juxtaposed against all the grotesque action scenes are the showdowns that take place on a more personal level. The encounters between the opponents throughout the film are executed very well. I found the showdown between Castor and Sean in a room full of mirrors very clever.


Face/Off is a very difficult film to follow. When the final “face-off” (pun inevitable) of the film draws near, it’s not quite clear who is on whose side and why.  Still, the film provides enough character development and motivation to keep its viewers interested in the plot. I have to say that this is maybe the action film with some of the most interesting character developments.

Above all, the most enjoyable part of this film is seeing Nicolas Cage and John Travolta act like each other. Both deliver amazing performances. The script forces John Travolta to play outside of his body; including the typical Cage freak-outs and looks, while Cage’s has to keep his performance more weighted; as if he is a prisoner of his own body. Still both of the actors, fortunately, get to show off their fame-making style of acting more than enough.


is a ridiculous film. With a premises that is full of gimmicks and ambiguities, action scenes that are unbelievably extravagant and a script full of cheesy lines (“It’s like looking in the mirror, but only NOT”). Also it is a film made with passion and enthusiasm, screaming fun in almost every scene (some are quite sad though). This is a kind of action flick that doesn’t get made in this day and age anymore.


In the end Face/off also shows how Nicolas Cage can handle both his theatrical out-of-body style of acting and a more restricted and introvert role at once, therefore I think this is the perfect start for everyone interested in giving the cinema of Nicolas Cage a change.

Rating: 8.5

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-- Edited by CagedCinema on Thursday 1st of August 2013 02:34:01 PM


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Status: Offline
Posts: 450
Date: 9:34 AM, 08/02/13
RE: Where to begin a Nicolas Cage blog? With the quintessential Face/Off!

That was an enjoyable read, Hugo, I was glad to revisit Face/Off, I consider it is a brilliant performance by Nic. I have seen this movie quite a few times, yet still your review gave me some surprises, so maybe it is time to watch it again. For instance, I don't recall that Troy had a son of his own.  It is true you don't see movies like this anymore, and I love it, the crazy plot and all. Thank you for posting your review here, I am happy you like to share your opinions.

Lady Trueheart

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