Hackman Likes it Young
Whilst Kevin Costner had been making movies since 1981 it would be 1987 which would see him become a star, firstly in "The Untouchables" and then in "No Way Out". Now the thing is that "No Way Out" is a movie which uses a familiar storyline of a man knowing who killed a woman but has the clock ticking against him to prove it before he is wrongfully arrested for the murder. In fact whilst Kevin Costner is the star of "No Way Out" he stars alongside Gene Hackman and this reminds me strongly of "Absolute Power" which Hackman made in 1997 with Clint Eastwood. The thing is that whilst the basic set up is familiar the movie is exciting and tense with a climax which leaves you drop jawed.
Having been promoted to work at the Pentagon as an investigator for Defense Secretary David Brice (Gene Hackman - Hoosiers), Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner - American Flyers) finds himself having a relationship with Susan Atwell (Sean Young) who just happens to be Brice's mistress. But when Susan shows up dead Tom not only knows that Brice is the man responsible but before long they will discover his connection and accuse him of the murder. And to make matters worse Brice and his right hand man Scott Pritchard (Will Patton) place Tom in charge of the investigation unaware of his relationship with Susan.
Whilst "No Way Out" starts with Tom Farrell being interrogated by two agents the storyline quickly takes us back 6 months earlier to his first meeting with Susan which culminates with sex in the back of a limo. What follows on from there is a slow build up as characters and connections are established from Tom being a heroic naval officer to the secretive and controlling way Brice operates using the homosexual Scott as his go between to set up meetings for him and Susan. It is slow going as we watch Tom falling in love with Susan but has to control his anger when it comes to the affair, knowing that she is sleeping with his boss. And at about 45 minutes we get the drama as we witness Brice accidentally kill Susan in a pique of jealous rage.
Now that may sound like I have spoilt things by telling you Brice is the murderer but in truth this is where the real storyline begins as we have Brice lead by Scott staging a cover up as they have Tom investigate the murder, liaising with CID as they make up the story that Susan was leaking information to a Russian spy. The interesting aspect is that Tom knows it was Brice, they don't know that Tom was dating Susan and we have a ticking clock as a computer gets to work recreating an image from a Polaroid negative which will make it clear that Tom was connected to Susan. It is exciting stuff as Tom gets swamped by the investigation unable to plan ahead as he is thrown into the mire with the CID already examining items they have removed from Susan's home. And then there is Scott who demands loyalty to Brice and makes it clear that he expects Tom to be the same, ignoring anything which may implicate their boss.
Because director Roger Donaldson delivers such an electrify atmosphere as we feel the noose tightening as Tom tries to find evidence of Brice's connection that we are taken on this rollercoaster ride of drama and action, some of which is terrific. But that is not all and not only do we get a powerful climax as things become desperate which has a decent twist we then get a "didn't see that coming" twist which leaves you with your jaw on the floor. It causes what is an assured take on a familiar storyline to become memorable because of that one stroke of genius.
What Roger Donaldson also does is get a good performances from Kevin Costner and he is brilliant in those scenes where he finds himself unable to get a second to breathe to think about what is going on and what he can do to clear his name. He's also good when it comes to the action side of the movie and with him doing much of his own stunt work there is an authenticity to the action which is lacking from modern movies. In fact so good is Costner's performance that Gene Hackman barely registers although Will Patton's performance as Scott is another eye catching one.
What this all boils down to is that "No Way Out" may now be over 25 years old but it is still a terrific thriller, taking a familiar storyline and making it exciting thanks to decent pacing, action and some great twists.