Face/Off at Fantasia Festival 2022

USA / English
1997 / 138 Minutes
Director: John Woo
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage,
Colm Feore, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola

Re-visiting Jon Woo’s classic action film, Face/Off, with the famed director seated just three seats over, was a phenomenal experience.

One of the problems with film, is the ageing process. Some works just simply struggle over the tests of time. Certain things become irrelevant, things change, such is the nature of progression. Others though, albeit showing age, still stand up as strongly as they did when first released. For Face/Off, it is a mixture of these two things.

Originally intended as a futuristic piece, not too far off the likes of Bladerunner, complete with flying cars and whatnot, before director John Woo re-arranged the script and ideology to what was released twenty-five years ago (where does the time go?). In fact the only futuristic factor that wasn’t sent to the scrapheap by Woo, was the key component to the story – the face… off.

See Also: Shin Ultraman has its North American premier at Fantasia this week

There are some moments that appear more comical that perhaps originally intended – the constant touching of faces for example. Given the key moments of the film, and trying to avoid spoilers despite the age of the material, those scenes have grown to give new life to the piece, which is probably something that isn’t noticeable on an initial viewing. One thing is for sure, the cinephiles that packed themselves in for the viewing sure did – giggling with glee each of the many times it happens.

The action sequences, including Woo’s trademark double-gun signature, have held up remarkably well, and it is easy to see why Woo is so highly regarded. Both Travolta and Cage mimic each other so well – most assuredly because the two spent a considerable amount of time leading up to the filming process together, learning each others mannerisms down to how each walked. Astute professionalism goes a long way.

With Woo in house, speaking the packed cinema both before and after the film – and giving perspective into the painstaking creation process but also the insider scoop, like which scenes Woo had to fight to keep in the film. Two of which, Woo offered to pay for out of his own pocket once the films budget had been breached – and both ended up being key moments in the film. Incoming spoiler alert – look away now, unless you’ve seen the film.

The two scenes Woo offered to pay to have shot, were the mirror gun battle between Travolta and Cage, and the Scene where Castor Troy’s son is given headphones to drown out the massive gun fight that was about to happen. Both ended up being key scenes that added to the film, highlighting the components Woo was striving for. Initially, Woo was to cover the two million dollar cost for these two scenes, but when the studio saw how impactful they were, instead decided against charging Woo, and ate the costs themselves.

Read More: Ten films to see at Fantasia 2022

Upon initial release, Face/Off was a flop,returning just a quarter of the $80,000,000 USD it cost to make. With time, it grew to become a cult film, and eventually grossed $245,676,146 USD. A quarter-century later, film fanatics are still paying to see the film, presented here on 35mm and in all its original glory. Presented, alongside the classic Hong Kong action masterpiece, Hard Boiled, as part of a Career Achievement Award that Fantasia presented to John Woo the previous day.

Check out the Fantasia festival website for showings, programming and tickets.