1997 Face Off Face/Off John Woo 1997  Essay

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Face Off


John Woo (1997)


In 1997, John Woo directed Face/Off movie that is action thriller movie. The report studies the roles played by actors and the plot of the movie critically. It sorts out the quality of sounds used in the movie and the styles adopted by actors and directors. The movie uses concept of face changing faces which are not new yet the movie makes an effort towards elaborating the concept. The movie is based on blood-shed genre with thrilling adventure that goes on as the characters fight to get to the bomb ticking in L.A. Movie is not only about the story but it is also about the cinema experience that is based on quality of acting, style, direction, sounds, lights, timing and use of technology. The report covers different technical aspects as used in the movie Face/Off by John Woo.


The story of the movie revolves around two FBI agents Sean Archer played by John Travolta and Castor Troy played by Nicolas Cage. There is a bomb ticking in Los Angeles and Sean is looking for it. For discovering, Sean needs to swap face with bad egg Castor Troy. But Troy assumes Sean's identity and the reality are concealed for a time. Sean's son has died five years ago and he drops on Castor (Face/Off, 2012). He uses Castor's identity but gets tricked. Castor, in the face of Sean, kills anyone knowing or involved in the secret. The movie becomes pop Heat that is kind of self-parody. A dissident tremor arrives in the movie as daughter of Castor (who is in disguise of Sean) appears. Now Castor needs to secure his family in the massive shoot-out and also to pursue his goal.


Woo casted a phenomenal cast in the movie. John Travolta acted Sean Archer, Nicolas Cage in his ever fresh energetic appearance played Castor Troy; John Powell played Dr. Eve Archer. Other actors include Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Myles Jeffrey, Nick Cassavetes, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, C.C.H. Pounder and John Carroll Lynch (Face/Off, 2012). Most of the actors casted in the movie are popular for their action scenes and fast motion. Woo hired middle age actors to count the element of maturity in the movie that is quiet unlike the teen-age violence. Cage knows how to mix mission with fun like what he performed in The Rock. The director used actors to play a role where the character has aim as well as family to care about. The character needs to justify his double role and to balance the expression of feelings. Hence the actors particularly Joahn Travolta and Nicholas Cage seem just the perfect match for the characters in movie.


Like many other movies presenting action, Face/Off used action in the dark. Most of the scenes are recorded in dark with appropriate use of indoor lights. Graphics are well matched in unique stylistic approach that suits violence and bloodshed scenes (Maslin, 2003). The director often uses light reflections with the help of mirrors and glasses and adds style to the action.


The movie sound track is released by Hollywood Records. Orchestra was carried out by Lucas Richman and Bruce Fowler, Steven Fowler, Walt Fowler, Yvonne S. Moriarty, Ladd McIntosh and Lucas Richman orchestrated. The sounds match the action thriller theme that involves the viewer and takes him on a trilling adventure (Face/Off, 2012). The movie is actually action and has bloodshed therefore sound of bullets is very often. The director has used double sound effects of guns by using double guns. Sounds are perfectly matched to the scenes of approaching danger, humor scenes and thrill.


The action movie Face/Off is based on bloodshed genre. Action movies were normally brutal up till early 1990 are when the killer would be the most cold-hearted person around. He would kill and shoot anyone in his way. John Woo has been making action and blood-shed movies since 1983. He is using different approaches to make action. His blood-shed movies are not cold and he adds style in it. He adds comedy in the movie as well to make it more enjoyable and to release the tension of viewer that he gets on seeing bodies. In the blood-shed shoot outs, Woo adds musical element that is so synchronized with the action that a viewer forgets if he is watching action or a dance scene. John Woo does not believe in cold violence and does not believe in shooting without aim. Is characters fight for greater good and shoot when confronting evil. Doves, animals and birds are the friends of hero hence a humanist soft touch is also added to the strong cruel appearance of the action genre.

Style and Direction

Action and thrill is the emblem of Hong Kong director John Woo. Woo got fame in Hong Kong and it was quite late that he moved to Hollywood. He understands the rich cultural backgrounds of east and west and knows how to integrate action, thrill, bloodshed, love, humor and family care. In the movie Face/Off he used style action sequences with freshness and fun. A touch of comedy makes the movie even more enjoyable when Castor's daughter plays her role. Director used Cage's style for making it exciting and stimulating (Reviews; Face/Off, 1997). He did not self-indulge the artists but made it great art out of movie. Though it was not a block buster, the movie stood out in the season due to its action. The dialogue delivery and narrative of the movie adds a sense of association that the viewer can feel. There are no overwhelming flashbacks in the movie and the story goes on as the characters move ahead. John Woo makes use of slow motion perfectly and included chaotic action. Since Woo has made some classic action like hard Boiled and Mission: Impossible 2 and also the comic series like Seven Brothers he remarkably matched motion and stillness and slow motion.

John Woo's movies are normally typecast. The movie Face/Off has striking visual style. In his action movies, he excessively uses sunglasses. Also in the Face/Off, Nicolas Cage is frequently found wearing glasses that adds to his style. Some may think that this is merely repetition of what the director has been showing in his other action movies but this is just director's apparent style and the indication how he distinguishes action movies from plain comedy or romance (Face/Off, 2012).

Besides slow motion and glasses, Woo also perfectly used ballistic shoot-outs. Loads of bullets fly in the movie as people are shot down. Woo does not hesitate to show dead bodies while making action movies like Face/Off. He introduced gun playing as a style and fashion. It is not merely a plain cruel action as he depicts it. He added "life" to brutally-cool action movies of Hollywood. Woo loves to have his actors carry two guns (Dargis, 2009). He used double automatic guns slinging in the movie to show double power and voice of the guns. In the action scenes where normally the hero, or even voe, has to counter too many people, Woo hands them two guns to add reality in the scene that one man can handle multiple people at a time only if he has multiple weapons with him. The trademark became trend in Hollywood action afterwards.

face-to-face standing is the way how Woo shows dare, courage, rage and occasionally hatred among characters (Dargis, 2009). It's thrilling to see in the movie that Sean and Castor are standing face-to-face having changed their identities!

Woo used the concept of sixth sense in the movie. The hero and the enemy have the ability to sense danger around them or approaching. Castor Troy could sense and feel that his family was in danger and he saves the family seconds before the shoot-out starts (Dargis, 2009).

Action and back to back scenes are becoming tied to one another. Woo directed the actors for back to back scenes that shows how the character needs to save himself and to attack too. Castor and Sean meet back-to-back after the shoot-out is over. There is mostly a mirror that is in between the characters in back to back standing and this happens in Face/Off too. The reasons Woo used mirrors are that primarily mirrors give chance to hero to look behind him without turning and analyze danger (Dargis, 2009). In Face/Off, the mirror had another role too. It revealed the true face of the characters and revealed hero from foe. As they point guns into the mirror they see the face they wanted to kill actually. Mirrors look great in movie when they are intact and add thrill as they break and scatter. Blood pours around and glasses get shattered. Woo also used juxtaposition where different scenes are showed side by side to reveal similarities between them (Face/Off, 2012).


When a movie is produced, the editing job starts. Every movie is edited before its final launch because…

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