Face Off poster
Directed by John Woo
Produced by David Permut
Barrie M. Osborne
Christopher Godsick
Terence Chang
Written by Mike Werb
Michael Colleary
Starring John Travolta
Nicolas Cage
Music by John Powell
Cinematography Oliver Wood
Editing by Christian Wagner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release June 27, 1997
Running time 138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million
Gross revenue $245,676,146

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 Troy (played by 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. The medical operation is a success: Archer's hair, muscles and other necessary physical parts are altered into Castor's and his face is switched with Castor's, whose now faceless head is bandaged and Archer's face is stored in a tank of water. Archer (now played by Nicolas Cage) is taken to an offshore high security penitentiary, Erewhon Prison, and meets with Pollux, eventually gaining his confidence to learn the bomb's location.

During this, Castor unexpectedly wakes from his coma and discovers the face transplant and Archer's plan. He contacts his agents who force Dr. Walsh to place Archer's face on him, and then kill him and Archer's superiors. Just as Archer contacts the police to pass along the information, Castor (now played by John Travolta) arrives at the prison and taunts Archer, revealing he will now take over his life, including Archer's wife Eve (played by Joan Allen) and teenage daughter Jamie. 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 (played by 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 an attempted date rape, Castor reaches out to her and learns that she hasn't forgiven Archer for failing to prevent the death of her younger brother, Michael.

When Castor 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 the FBI Assistant Director in Charge, Victor Lazarro, but in his anger, Castor kills him, feigning that Lazarro suffered a heart attack. Castor is promoted to acting Assistant 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 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 after the funeral, but finds that Castor has taken Eve hostage. A gunfight ensues between Castor, Archer and Castor's gang, under Archer's orders. Sasha helps 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 butterfly knife that Castor had taught her how to use. 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 Archer's own face on himself 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. With the face transplant surgery reversed, Archer (once again played by John Travolta) returns to his family, helping to welcome Adam into his family, fulfilling his promise to Sasha.


  • John Travolta as Sean Archer / Castor Troy
  • Nicolas Cage as Castor Troy / Sean Archer
  • Joan Allen as Dr. Eve Archer
  • Alessandro Nivola as Pollux Troy
  • Gina Gershon as Sasha Hassler
  • Dominique Swain as Jamie Archer
  • Nick Cassavetes as Dietrich Hassler
  • Harve Presnell as Victor Lazarro
  • Colm Feore as Dr. Malcolm Walsh
  • John Carroll Lynch as Guard Walton
  • C. C. H. Pounder as Dr. Miller
  • Robert Wisdom as Tito
  • Margaret Cho as Wanda
  • James Denton as Buzz
  • Matt Ross as Loomis

External links

  • Face/Off at the Internet Movie Database
John Travolta films

Pulp Fiction (1994)  · Face/Off (1997)  · Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)  ·

Nicolas Cage films

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)  · Face/Off (1997)  · World Trade Center (2006)  · Kick-Ass (2010)  ·

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