In the world of science fiction, the idea of switching places with someone else isn’t entirely unheard of. You’ve seen the Freaky Friday films, the Mission:Impossible movies, the Invasion of the Body Snatchers stories, heck…even the Prince and the Pauper is a famous classic tale. Yet, the transformation itself is almost always a mysterious or even magical one. It’s more unlikely of a scenario to see a valid scientific approach. Okay, “valid” isn’t entirely accurate, but at least Face/Off gives it a fair shot, and the end result isn’t terrible. So let’s get into it.
Face/Off tells the story of two arch nemesis – one is an FBI agent and another is an insane criminal hell-bent on just wreaking havoc. Back in the day, the criminal attempted to kill the FBI agent, but accidently murdered his son instead. So trust me here – they hate each other. When the criminal is supposedly in a coma, the FBI agent goes undercover AS him. They switch their physical appearances, including their actual faces.
I saw this movie way back when, and the first thing I’ll tell you is that the concept is memorable, but not so much the plot. I remembered the switching of the faces, the faceless Nic Cage, but I remember little else. I couldn’t remember how they got away explaining the voice change or really – how putting a face on another man even works. I mean, the bone structure, jaw line, hair line, body weight, chest hair, hair length, etc…differed on both bodies. A simple face switch wasn’t going to work – and not even an “it’s just a movie, relax” explanation was going to cut it…thankfully, there’s not only an explanation, but it shows us everything. It might not be an exact science, but the movie did a good job making it reasonably believable and that’s all that matters.
The story, on the other hand, could use some work. It’s really a very basic cat and mouse tale with generally bland characters. The two leads are different enough from each other in order for them to need to impersonate one another throughout the movie (which was kind of cool), but as far as a colorful background, the characters are simply linked to a family member, but you know little else about them. Instead, it focuses a bit too much on the action and violence side of things. If that’s why you’re watching, you won’t have a bad time. The action, as well as the violence, were both done rather well, and it was mostly fun kicking back and watching the things that happen unfold. If you want to see something meaningful and memorable, I’m afraid a different body switching film may be the opportune choice there.
All in all, Face/Off delivers an unforgettable concept along with all the action and violence a man’s man could ask for, but it leaves out a meaningful plot and offers only half-developed characters. It’s fun, but a bit incomplete. Another year in pre-production could have made this movie a winner.