Review | The other face

But remember, every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see my face.

– The character of Nicolas Cage with the face of the character of John Travolta

It’s easy to watch The other face and classify the film as a ridiculous story full of crazy ideas, after all we are talking about a job where the two main characters, FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) and the terrorist Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage), literally change their face. I understand etiquette, really. But I believe the film deserves more appreciation beyond the “absurd action movie” of the 90s, because The other face is much deeper and more insightful than a long, brainless fun “just” The rock and Con Air – The Escape Route (interestingly, all with Cage). But let’s hold that thought for a moment. I will speak first of the cinematographic spectacle.

filmmaker John Woo is full throttle at the controls of the production, bringing its trademark slow-motion, dual-gun dives, grand acrobatics and nimble shooting. His direction is extremely stylized and hyperkinetic, but I also like how Woo is more contained and organized in his cutting compared to his Japanese films, also having the well-ordered composition of the montage that accompanies the choreography with great geographical sense and stimulating feelings. The director also takes advantage of Hollywood’s big budget to include set pieces hugely creative and outlandish, like a helicopter chasing a plane or the climactic speedboat crash, where Woo is in complete control of the chaos. There are also unlikely and imaginative scenarios, such as a high-security prison where inmates wear magnetized boots.

Every excess and overstatement of the mise en scene is well thought out for entertainment and fun language, and the same goes for the storyline and character arcs. First, the swapping of faces functions as a great subversive element in stories of this order, giving a different flavor to your typical cat-and-mouse game between police and criminal. Forget the absurdity of the premise, and think about its narrative effect, how it turns the characters around and offers the viewer unthinkable scenarios for the villain and the hero, how it creates torturous and tense situations like the villain kissing the woman he killed the son. It’s a Thriller in French quite nerve-wracking as we pause to reflect on the on-screen developments and how trapped Archer is for much of the story.

It is at this moment that The other face becomes a dramatically intelligent film. The science is ridiculous and the story isn’t complex, but there’s definitely depth. Archer’s transformation into his nemesis is practically an allegory for his feelings of obsession and revenge, something very well explored in the work from the murder of his son to the final scene of family reconciliation. In the dialogue I quoted above, Troy literally says the line to Archer, but the villain’s face has been haunting him for years like a ghost, giving the work its metaphorical charge about the mirror and the feud between men. opposites, in a story essentially about grief, guilt and overcoming. Archer really beats Troy when he overcomes his remorse (the scar scene) and when he shows compassion (raising Troy’s son).

For all this mosaic of flashy action, melodramas and suspense, the performances of Cage and Travolta are central, for better or for worse. Both actors play the antagonist in a cartoonish, over-the-top manner with lots of bizarre appearances and facial expressions (especially the histrionic Cage), which partly works for 007’s drug-villain aspect of the movie. story, but also brings comedic and embarrassing ridicule. I don’t know if it’s completely intentional. It’s in the dramatic scenes that the stars do best, in Archer’s melancholy and distress, with particular emphasis on Cage in the film’s most heartbreaking moments (and also in the most absurd, as his block turns waking up from a faceless coma).

The other face It’s a special action movie. There’s an iconic scene for me, when adversaries shoot from behind a mirror, a moment that encapsulates John Woo’s visual narrative and the work’s frenetic poetry around the story’s dramatic reflections on totally opposite characters – even the curiosity of their blood. is indicative of their personalities, with Archer being O negative (universal giver) and Troy being AB positive (universal receiver). Between sacrifice and psychopathy, we witness a family drama that borders on terror, surrounded by an extremely playful staging in its choreographic megalomania and its cinematographic spectacle. Behind the gunshots, the explosions and their fanciful concept, The other face explores their characters and their rivalry, giving an emotional charge and tension to each track exchanged.

The Other Face (Face/Off) – USA, 1997
Direction: John Woo
Road map: Mike Werb, Michael Colleary
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Alessandro Nivola, Colm Feore
Duration: 133 mins.

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