Friday, 2 December 2016

Classic Movie Review: No Way Out (1987)

Political thrillers is a film genre that hasn't much been seen since the end of the Cold War. There may be attempts every now and then, but nothing modern can face up against the tension that existed between the US and USSR. And now one was better suited to star in these movies than Kevin Costner. While his efforts in JFK and Thirteen Days are considered to be among the best, the greatest Cold War political thriller he starred in is undoubtedly No Way Out, which is an amazing movie on its own, but punctuated by one of the best twist endings in cinema history.

After he accidentally kills his mistress, Susan Atwell (Sean Young), Secretary of Defence David Brice (Gene Hackman) attempts a cover-up by suggesting that there is a Russian sleeper agent in the Pentagon and he is responsible for the murder. He puts Lieutenant Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) in charge of the investigation in finding the mole, codenamed Yuri. But unknown to Brice and his second in command, Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), Tom was actually the boyfriend of Susan and witnessed the Brice at the scene of the murder. Using his position as lead investigator to find the evidence he needs that Brice was the one to do it.

No Way Out is a very engaging and intriguing thriller. Although it takes its time in setting up the characters and all their relationships (Tom Farrell and Scott Pritchard are old friends, Tom wants to work for Brice, Tom and Susan's romance), the effort put in is well worth the payoff. Especially once Brice and Pritchard invent the idea of there being a Russian spy in the Pentagon. The invention is a fantastic idea, but even more so if you know the twist ending of the movie. Yes, this is the one case in which knowing the twist actually makes the movie better, but if you don't want it ruined, stop reading and go watch the movie. In the last five minutes of the film we actually learn that Yuri wasn't just a fabrication by Brice and Pritchard to cover-up, but an actual mole. And that it was Tom Farrell all along. What makes it so great is that they just thought they were making it up and we were watching Tom trying to reveal the truth. It is by far one of the best twists in movie history.

This is hands down Kevin Costner's best performance. While he'll always be remembered for Dances with Wolves, JFK and Robin Hood, nothing holds a flame up to this one. It's almost as if the desperation that Tom is feeling is real and you are absorbed by his character. It's his complete lack of wrongdoing that makes the twist ending so much more powerful. Costner is also great at restraining his emotion when we know that he should be feeling it. We don't need to know his motivation was or the plot that he intended to pull of as a Russian spy (I'm guessing cause a scandal in US politics, both sides always tried to do that) because he is so amazingly believable as both a spy and a loyal American.

No Way Out is an amazing classic that should be watched by everyone. If you're a fan of political thrillers, murder mysteries or twist endings, this has something for everyone. While it comes from a distinctly Cold War period, it really has stood the test of time because there is no real knowledge of the US/USSR tensions required. Give it a watch, you won't be disappointed (even if I did ruin the twist).

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