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(Air Date: Week Of 8/23/87)
"No Way Out", moves along at a rapid clip for most of its 110 minutes. It was written by its producer, Robert Garland, who based his script on "The Big Clock", a 1946 novel by Kenneth Fearing. The basic structure was built to last. It worked as a 1947 film noir when John Farrow directed Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Rita Johnson and George Macready, and it works now with Roger Donaldson directing Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young and Will Patton in the same roles.
The idea of a man searching for an alleged killer who turns out to be himself while he is trapped in the same building as the real killer will probably work in 2027. The fact that "No Way Out" is set in the Pentagon and was released in the same summer as the Iran-Contra hearings lends density to the plot, and gives the film a chance to make sharp observations about ruthless power plays in Washington.
Kevin Costner's face demands conscious recall, but "No Way Out" takes good advantage of his unmemorable looks. As one witness exclaims, "I'm telling you, he's average!". Costner's acting, however is anything but average as he portrays the grief-stricken prey of a murder investigation. Gene Hackman's Secretary of Defense is right on target: intimidating on the surface, scrambling for control underneath. Sean Young portrays his beautiful mistress with so much humour and vitality that her inability to protect herself from the system is genuinely heartbreaking. The real surprise in the cast is Will Patton, a New York stage actor who portrays a fawning, uptight defense aide with such skill and conviction that he even steals scenes from Hackman, no mean feat. George Dzundza, another character actor with New York stage training, is warm and touching as the hero's best friend. The charismatic model Iman appears in three brief scenes, making a stronger impression than film noir veteran Howard Duff's throwaway cameo as a senator who opposes Hackman.
In the last few minutes of "No Way Out", Garland seems to have lost faith in the material and the ending is cluttered with several plot twists so embarrassing that it's a relief not to reveal the film's 'shocking ending'. Still, except for one obligatory and pointless car chase midway through the proceedings, there is much of value in "No Way Out". It is well directed, edited and photographed. It also makes life at the top appear terrifying, duplicitous, and potentially fatal, which is reflective of a growing disbelief in national leaders as automatic heroes.
Copyright 1987 Monica Sullivan
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