From the tragic opening, stopping just short of Travolta shouting at the heavens, to Cage bellowing Handel's Messiah, to the showdown surrounded by Latin Orthodox iconography, this is an action-opera reveling in its own mythic theatricality. Batshit set pieces stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the silent era, and recall the bygone days of stunt and pyrotechnical work that were sadly taken for granted.
I've seen "Face/Off" more times than I can count, but it never truly felt like a John Woo film until I saw it projected in 35mm; Woo's operatic vision is intended for the widest screen and loudest sound system you can find. The pairing of Travolta and Cage is one of those once-in-a-generation fusions of star power, and both actors are committed to bringing Woo's bullet-ridden Tragedy to life in a hail of sparks.
For those of you who can get your hands on the two-disc special edition, check out the uncut "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" sequence in the deleted scenes. If you thought it was mesmerizing in the theatrical cut, you're in for a treat. The planned darker ending is great stuff too.
Am I the only one who gets the impression this was a parody? The first bit was obviously riffing off of the state of American action cinema but then it seems to switch gears and take shots at his own style. It's either that or he just went nuts with enthusiasm after Hollywood finally took the leash off.
"Movies this demented don't seem to get made anymore". Certainly not the peak of Woo's action sequences, but an undeniable film due to those two performances. That anyone would bother to criticise on rational terms when the film is operating on whole other levels of reality is strange to me. On blu-ray there were so many laughable stunt doubles, but really I'm just thankful it was legit stunt work at all.
I never saw something trying so hard to be poetic while being ridiculously over-the-top at every possible level of filmmaking at the same time. It tries to be great but it's so ridiculous that ends up being... entertaining!