Plot: What’s it about?
Sean Archer (John Travolta) is an FBI agent with a serious ax to grind, he is determined to bring down the fugitive Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage), regardless of what it takes. Troy is a high level international terrorist, unafraid of taking innocent lives to further his own cause. But when one of his projects caused the death of Archer’s son, it became personal and so now, Archer is dedicated to getting retribution. He is finally able to capture Troy after a violent confrontation, but even in this situation, he retains some power over Archer. A bomb was placed somewhere in Los Angeles and the timer is in motion, but Troy is comatose and unable to reveal any information. In a desperate move, Archer agrees to an experimental procedure which would allow him to assume Troy’s identity, then track down the bomb. But even if the plan works and Archer can pose as Troy, will the plan unfold as it was laid out, or will some serious problems arise?
In my opinion, this is one of, if not the best American action movies ever produced. Face/Off is a movie I could watch over and over again, as it delivers on all fronts. John Woo loads so much action into this movie, it almost bursts at the seams at times and has some incredible set pieces. As you’d expect from Woo, the gun battles are epic and the film’s generous budget shows, this is some well choreographed, well executed violence. The story itself is of course over the top, but suspension of disbelief is part and parcel when it comes to action movies. The plot does what it needs to do, which is establish the characters and then set the pieces up to be knocked down in gloriously violent fashion. John Travolta and Nicholas Cage don’t just play these roles, they embrace them and really bring the characters to life. I simply cannot recommend Face/Off enough and with this new two disc edition, this release is not one to be missed.
Video: How does it look?
“Face/Off” was one of Paramount’s initial titles way back in 1999 when Paramount first started issuing DVD’s. As such, it feel into a wave of titles that were anamorphically enhanced (other waves weren’t) and has always looked very pleasing on disc. This new Blu-ray version is certainly the best incarnation yet of the film, now over ten years old. Colors are very strong and vibrant and I was most impressed with the way the darker scenes were handled, there seemed to be no artifacting going on and black levels looked as they should. Flesh tones seemed warm and natural as well. I’m hard-pressed to find much wrong with the way this looks, aside from a few minor blips here and there (I’ll fault the print for that) but otherwise this is one fine-looking transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not to be outdone by the video, the audio sounds superb as well. There are a few options here, starting out with a DTS 6.1 mix as well as a Dolby Digital EX mix and I’m happy to say that either one you choose, it’ll be worth it. Right off the bat, the ambiance takes over and listening to this movie after so many years is really like hearing it for the first time. There are plenty of action scenes, car chases and gun fire to keep the viewer entertained and I was impressed with how realistic the sound is. Little nuances seemed to really resonate through the speakers giving it a very realistic sound to the whole movie. A top notch effort here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray disc has the exact same features as the new Special Edition standard DVD, though the supplements appear in HD on this version (obviously). The first commentary track has John Woo with the film’s two writers, while the second track is just the writers by themselves. I found both sessions to be solid, but of course, Woo’s presence added a lot to the first track. The writers tend to focus on the story and how it evolved, while Woo provides more “on the set” type information. In any case, both prove to be insightful and fans will want to make time to hear them both. The Light and Dark: The Making of Face/Off has five featurettes that combine to offer an in depth, hour long look at the production. Each featurettes focuses on a unique element, so they cover a lot of ground and unlike some other lengthy pieces, these never get dull. John Woo: A Life in Pictures is a great half hour look at Woo’s career and while not deep, it is something fans will enjoy, so its a welcome inclusion. This release also includes some deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and the film’s theatrical trailer.