In the late 80s, a young actor by the name of Kevin Costner was just starting to make a name for himself by starring in a number of major motion pictures, including “The Untouchables” (with Sean Connery and Robert De Niro), “Bull Durham” (with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins), and “Field of Dreams” (with James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster). However, many people tend to forget about another film he made during this breakout period in his career, a little thriller called “No Way Out.” Sure, it might not have been as big a production as “The Untouchables,” which somewhat overshadowed it by being released just two months prior, but just like the historical crime drama, it too showed evidence that Costner was a talent that was going to go a long way.
Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) is a Navy Commander who has been invited to a party by a friend of his, Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), in order to meet the Secretary of Defense, David Brice (Gene Hackman), about the possibility of a position at The Pentagon. The meeting doesn’t go very well, with Brice showing practically no interest in Farrell at all. However, the night is not a total loss for the Commander as he meets a woman, Susan Atwell (Sean Young), that he immediately takes a liking to. The two end up starting a relationship and falling in love. Farrell even ends up getting the job as Brice’s liaison after pulling off a heroic rescue on one of his missions. Everything seems to be going so well, that is, until he discovers that Susan just happens to be Brice’s mistress. She agrees to end her relationship with Brice, but when she tries to, he accidentally kills her. Brice and Pritchard try to cover up the murder, claiming that the murderer is actually a Russian spy, which leads to a series of events that slowly start to point towards Farrell as the killer. Will he be able to expose the real killer before he is caught, or is there truly no way out?
“No Way Out” is the kind of film that starts to worry you from just a few minutes in, at least those who have looked into what kind of film it claims to be. As it starts, we watch as Tom and Susan begin and carry on their relationship, but we see no sign of the action or thrills that the film has become known for. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking the film was a melodrama that had accidentally been mislabeled, especially with its seeming insistence on not getting a move on with the story.
Luckily, all of this changes at about the halfway point (better late than never, I suppose), when the Secretary of Defense accidentally murders his mistress out of sheer jealousy. Here is where the story actually begins, putting into motion the chain of events that set up an increasingly tense second half. Farrell and the audience know who actually killed Susan, but there’s seems to be no way to prove it, and what’s worse, Farrell has been seen with her in several places and has even left a photo negative of himself at her house (a negative that has to be restored through a time-consuming process). Nobody specifically knows he was the other man involved, but as clues begin to unravel (credit card payments, eyewitness accounts, job details, etc.), he slowly becomes cornered as the climax of the film plays out.
Taking place within The Pentagon, the climax has Farrell racing to find proof of Brice’s involvement, while trying to avoid his own capture. What we have here is a long strand of unbroken tension that plays out beautifully, keeping the audience glued to the screen, and making us wonder which, if any, of Farrell’s plays will be his last. Shot skillfully by Oscar winner John Alcott (most known for his exquisite work with Stanley Kubrick) and deftly directed by Roger Donaldson (“The Bounty,” “Thirteen Days”), this portion of the film grabs you from the start and doesn’t let up until it’s over, making time feel as though it’s flown by, which is the mark of any well-done thriller.
So what we end up with is a film that needed to get started a lot sooner than it does (no film should take half its runtime to finally get the story moving), but when it finally does, it proves that the wait has most definitely been worth it. It balances out to a pretty good thriller with some fine performances, particularly from Costner and Hackman (just ignore the silly and pointless tacked-on twist ending). It may not have been Costner’s most memorable film from the period, but if you’re a fan of thrillers with palpable tension, then this is one that you’ll most certainly want to go back and check out.
“No Way Out” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly decent quality. There is a fair amount of grain visible in the picture, but it’s nothing too bothersome, and certainly not enough to impede your viewing of the film. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is outstanding, giving you all of the dialogue and Maurice Jarre’s score in exceptional quality. Overall, the film appears to have been restored to the best possible quality by Shout! Factory, who always do the best job they can with the available materials. With the film being nearly 30 years old, it’s incredible that they’ve managed to make it look and sound this good, leaving one mostly impressed with the treatment that the film’s been given.
Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson: An informative track that has the director sharing several interesting tidbits about the making of the film.
“No Way Out” may take about half its runtime to finally get the story moving, but when it does, the audience is treated to a grand thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s fast-paced, incredibly tense, and marked Kevin Costner as one of the must-watch, up-and-coming stars of the screen. It’s the kind of thriller that we just don’t see very much of anymore, which is a shame, because this is the kind of film that could teach modern filmmakers a thing or two about the genre.
Now available on Blu-ray.
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