In the 1997 movie, Face/Off, FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been pursuing terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for over 6 years.

During an ambush at Los Angeles airport, Castor makes a comment to Sean about a bomb that is located somewhere within the city of Los Angeles. Sean does not know whether to believe him or not. Before Sean can find out the truth from him, Castor is knocked into a coma.

In an effort to find the location of the bomb from Castor's brother, Pollux, Sean must go through an experimental face transplant procedure to become Castor.

Archer affirms the threat is real, but is unable to convince Pollux to talk where the bomb is located. At suggestion of his partner Tito, Archer secretly undergoes a highly experimental face transplant procedure by Dr. Walsh to take on Castor's face and appearance. Archer (now played by Cage) is taken to the same high-security prison where Pollux is, and slowly convinces Pollux that he is Castor, gaining information on the bomb's location. Meanwhile, Castor wakes up from his coma prematurely and discovers his face missing.

After the face of Castor is placed onto Sean, they place Sean's face into some sort of preserving agent for reattachment to Sean after the assignment is complete.

Sean Archer

Sean makes the comment to "take this face and burn it" when the assignment is completed. There is no more use for Castor at this point in the movie.

Is there an explanation given as to why Castor Troy is still being kept alive after the procedure was completed?

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    Well, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies Don't kill the criminals after arresting them!
    – madmada
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 10:02
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    As I can remember, they hid the fact that he's alive from everyone including the FBI, but he was still under arrest/in custody, and it wouldn't make sense if "the good guys" killed him in cold blood for no reason
    – madmada
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 10:18
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    @madmada Yeah, my point exactly. Sean Archer didn't even know that he was still alive, meaning that he was in a coma and Archer presumably thought that they would have just let him die. "killed him in cold blood for no reason"...... have you seen the movie? There were several reasons for the "good guys" to have wanted him dead. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 10:21
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    He thought Castor died during their fight in the beginning of the movie and was surprised that they bothered and saved him, but after that he was just a guy in a coma that represent no harm and I don't remember anyone addressing the idea of killing him
    – madmada
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 10:32
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    @madmada There was no indication that Archer thought Troy was dead. He is lying in the airplane hangar with a smirk on his face. Archer said "you're keeping him alive"? I interpret that as Archer wanted to know why he was still alive.
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


This is addressed (to some extent) in the film's original script

ARCHER: Why are you keeping him alive? (gets no answer) As long as he's breathing, he's dangerous.

MILLER: Relax, he's a turnip.

The short answer is that he's currently in FBI custody as a hospitalised prisoner in what appears to be a normal ICU unit. They've certainly put about the story that he's dead (and presumably assigned him a witness protection name) but there's no special indication that they're in a position to just kill him.

Since turning off the life-support of any patient requires a vast amount of time, effort and numerous court appearances, it's presumably a lot easier just to leave him in what they feel is an irreversible coma.

On top of that, if the story ever comes out that they decided to turn off his life support without speaking to his family, every person who was involved would be going to jail for a very long time. Far better to just leave him to quietly rot.

  • Yeah, I understand that in any other sense. But, nobody else besides a few agents are aware that he is even being kept alive at this point. Just like Archer says "As long as he's breathing, he's dangerous" I know they wouldn't have a movie unless Castor awakes from his coma, but I just wanted them to explain why they are keeping him alive other than they are "good guys". Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 11:07
  • @steelerfan - There's no evidence that only "a few agents" know about his incarceration. There's at least a team of doctors as well.
    – user7812
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 11:15
  • Yeah, but those doctors are also part of "special operations" Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 11:16
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    @steelerfan - Ah, the script would suggest that those doctors aren't his usual doctors. The guy who's introduced to Archer (Dr Hoag) is the head of the "Physiological Camouflage Unit for Special Ops.". It's vanishingly unlikely that he'd have Castor as his patient under normal circumstances. He also brings in his own team for the operation.
    – user7812
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 11:18
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    @madmada I have seen this movie more times than I can count. I was always under the assumption that Archer thought that Troy was still alive and that given the history that the two of them had, that the bureau would "take care" of Troy. As Richard posted above Archer states "as long as he's breathing, he's dangerous". Archer or the bureau could presumably care less if Troy "mysteriously" dies. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 11:37

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