Friday, September 23, 2011

Tonight's Movie: No Way Out (1987)

I enjoyed last night's Kevin Costner film so much that I decided to double up and watch him this evening in another film, NO WAY OUT.

My husband and I saw NO WAY OUT when it was first playing in movie theaters, but I don't believe I'd seen it again in the intervening years. Consequently, most of the film played for me like a brand-new movie, albeit one that was vaguely familiar. Partway through the film I did suddenly remember the awkward, tacked-on twist ending, which raises more questions than it answers, and which will not be revealed below.

Costner plays Lt. Commander Tom Farrell, a Naval hero who is selected to serve as an aide to the Secretary of the Navy, David Brice (Gene Hackman).

Farrell falls in love with Susan Atwell (Sean Young), who also happens to be the married Brice's mistress. Susan loves Tom and plans to break off her relationship with Brice, but before she can do so Brice suspects her of being unfaithful and kills her in a jealous rage.

Brice's creepily devoted aide, Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), devises a phony cover story, that Susan was killed by the unknown other man in her life, a mythical Russian spy. The man assigned to find Susan's lover and "murderer" is none other than Tom Farrell.

Tom, of course, realizes immediately that his boss is responsible for the death, and he must find a way to clear himself and prove Brice's connection to Susan, as the hunt for the other man in Susan's life begins to close in around him inside the Pentagon.

NO WAY OUT is a solid, exciting film with a number of interesting twists and turns, set against the backdrop of Washington, D.C. One of the best scenes in the movie is the one where Tom is assigned to investigate the murder and opens the file to discover for the first time that Susan is dead. He calmly excuses himself, goes in the bathroom, and falls apart. It's a powerful and memorable scene with superb acting by Costner. He's excellent throughout the entire film, and from the vantage point of 2011 he seems impossibly young and handsome.

I don't particularly care for Sean Young in this film, bad '80s hair and all, but she does successfully convey someone free-spirited enough to participate in an infamous love scene in the back of a limousine. Susan's character isn't really developed; for instance, it's never clear why someone with reasonable looks and intelligence would earn her keep as the mistress to a married man she doesn't seem to like very much. Her character is more of a "placeholder" whose death triggers the suspenseful storyline.

Hackman and Patton both play unsettlingly convincing slimeballs. Hackman's character has an entitled, impatient, snotty air which I also saw in supposed big-shot attorneys a time or two in my former work life. I always wonder what it is that causes some people to placate such types, whose so-called power is really rooted in immaturity (with its accompanying bad behavior) and/or narcissism. That particular type of "power player" gives one the feeling that if you simply laughed at him, he'd fly into a rage and then fall to pieces. And indeed, that totally fits with Brice completely losing it when he believes Susan is seeing another man behind his back. He can't handle the rejection.

Patton's sneering, pushy character is more over-the-top and less believable than Hackman's; again, it's never quite clear what drives Pritchard to serve Brice's needs so willingly, to the point he'd be willing to kill for Brice. Pritchard tells Farrell early on that Brice is brilliant, but is that reason enough to help him cover up a murder? Does Pritchard crave power, is he a psycho, or both? His story is never really completely clear.

There are some fun visual angles to the movie, including the Washington locations and the state of technology as recently as two dozen years ago. The film may look fairly modern -- other than the women's big DYNASTY hair! -- but it takes place just long enough ago that Farrell has to find a pay phone to make a call in an emergency; computers are large and slow, and the resident computer expert in Costner's unit has a box of 3M floppy discs on his desk. I'm not sure my youngest children can remember computers with floppies or CDs; things have changed quickly!

NO WAY OUT was directed by Roger Donaldson, who also worked with Costner on THIRTEEN DAYS (2000). The supporting cast includes Senator Fred Thompson (billed back then as Fred Dalton Thompson), Howard Duff, George Dzundza, and the model Iman. The film runs 114 minutes.

There was a 1950 film titled NO WAY OUT, starring Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, and Sidney Poitier, which is not related in any way to the 1987 film of the same title. However, the 1987 film is a remake of THE BIG CLOCK (1948), a suspense film starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton, directed by John Farrow. THE BIG CLOCK and NO WAY OUT were both based on a novel by Kenneth Fearing.

Parental advisory: This film is rated R and is most definitely not for children. The R rating is partially for some completely unnecessary female nudity which had nothing to do with the story; I didn't miss a thing when I zapped the scenes with the fast-forward on my remote. The R rating is also due to language, violence, and mature themes.

NO WAY OUT has been released on widescreen DVD and VHS.

This film can be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video. Unfortunately the DVD is one of many that has gone to the "saved" section at Netflix and not been replaced, as the DVD has gone out of print, although new and used copies can be found from various dealers. I picked up my DVD for a couple dollars from a used book and DVD store at our local mall.


Blogger Ed South said...

This movie was filmed out here on the East Coast near us. The subway scenes: you see the exterior of subway stations filmed in DC, but then the interior shots are filmed on and around the Baltimore subway system as they do not (or at least didn't back then) allow filming on the DC Metro system.

7:17 AM  
Blogger AK said...

I haven't seen this one in a long time, but I remember thinking Pritchard was ambitious,sure, but love w/Hackman's character?
And Bryce seemed enough of an egotistical narcissist to enjoy being adored by his minion, though I doubt he reciprocated the feeling. Just my opinion, though.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the info on the subways, Ed! I love that kind of location info. :)

Rob, that thought did belatedly cross my mind. There was a passing reference that Pritchard wouldn't have been Susan's "other man" because he was homosexual. Your theory might help explain his character's desperate actions on Brice's behalf.

Best wishes,

11:44 AM  

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