Sunday 25 February 2024

Movie Review: No Way Out (1987)

Genre: Thriller  
Director: Roger Donaldson  
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton  
Running Time: 114 minutes  

Synopsis: In Washington DC, the US Navy's Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) is selected for an intelligence assignment by Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman). Tom also starts an affair with socialite Susan Atwell (Sean Young), who happens to be Brice's mistress. In a fit of jealousy, Brice accidently kills Susan. His chief assistant Scott Pritchard (Will Patton) concocts a cover-up plan to blame Susan's death on non-existent Soviet spy Yuri. But Tom knows what really happened, and has to prove the truth before he himself gets implicated.

What Works Well: This is a slick thriller combining Cold War intrigue, inter-governmental political machinations, lust, romance, and scandal. Robert Garland's screenplay updates the 1946 novel The Big Clock (by Kenneth Fearing), and director Roger Donaldson keeps the pacing brisk and the tension at elevated levels, mixing cocktail parties for the Washington DC elites with backroom plotting and the occasional chase scene. In a star-making role, Kevin Costner oozes confident charisma as the Navy lieutenant sliding into unexpected convolutions at the Pentagon and in his personal life, while Sean Young adds allure. The final controversial twist demonstrates brain-scratching courage. 

What Does Not Work As Well: Starting with the hastily conceived distraction story to chase invisible spy Yuri, the second half plot holes start to consume all logic, culminating in ridiculous actions including defence officials planting evidence in computer systems and allowing a couple of unscreened civilians full access to every room in the Pentagon (the largest building in the world). The notable dip in quality coincides with Gene Hackman being sidelined into a bystander.

Conclusion: Sparkling with talent and enthusiasm, but perforated by sloppy conveniences.

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