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Maybe This Door Will Get Me Out of Here?
by Jon Schuller

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I like the movie scene where someone is caught in one of those complicated, English mazes and can't find their way out as the camera slowly pulls back for a long shot from above. We watch as they try several different ways but all are dead ends. Maybe it's all a dream sequence, and the person wakes up in a graphic sweat, breathing quickly and frightened beyond belief. We're breathing rapidly ourselves. Or, the scene is real, and someone is actually chasing the subject but never quite catches them. Lots of films have used this device to dramatize guilt or the victim tries desperately to prove the truth and remedy their circumstances. Hitchcock loved to "corner" his stars in seemingly escape-proof situations. Somehow, they persist, maybe someone helps them and, in the end, they're proven right. Films like Saboteur, Rear Window or The Man Who Knew Too Much are great examples.

No Way Out premiered in August, 1987 and starred Kevin Costner as Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell, with Gene Hackman as Secretary of Defense David Brice and Sean Young as Susan Atwell. The supporting cast features some marvelous actors: Will Patton, George Dzundza, Howard Duff, Jason Bernard,
Iman and Fred Dalton Thompson.

Farrell is being grilled about the first time he met Secretary of Defense David Brice. Scott Pritchard (Patton), a college friend, wants to get Tom an invitation to an inaugural ball where he'll meet the Secretary and land a choice job at the D.O.D. in the Pentagon. Brice meets Farrell but isn't impressed, practically ignoring him. As Tom walks away, he sees a beautiful woman, Susan Atwell (Young), and begins to flirt with her. She invites him to leave the ball in her limousine and they have sex in the back seat. She confesses she's involved with an older married man and Tom figures, well, that's over. He returns to active sea duty and rescues a sailor washed overboard in a storm. A major newspaper story about Farrell's heroics gets Brice's attention and he issues an immediate order, putting Tom on his personal intelligence staff.

Tom and Susan go away for a romantic weekend. They're in her apartment when Brice shows up unexpectedly and Susan tells Farrell he must leave quietly; she promises him that she'll break it off with Brice soon. He sneaks away as Brice sees a man leave her place. A heated argument leads to Susan's death. Brice
calls Pritchard so he can surrender to police but the ever-loyal Pritchard suggests creating a mystery lover for Susan who's a KGB sleeper-agent code named Yuri to protect Brice from prosecution. Pritchard cleans the apartment of any indications a man was there; he finds a photo negative of "Yuri."

Brice wants Farrell to begin investigating who Susan was involved with; Tom is now looking for himself. Pritchard hires two assassins to make anyone who knew about Susan and Brice's affair disappear. Meanwhile, the lab is working on photo enhancement, led by Sam Hessleman (Dzundza), getting encouraging results as Tom asks him to slow it down. The NCID has found witnesses to Tom and Susan's weekend and brings them to the Pentagon to identify Yuri. They recognize Tom and he runs away, pursued by the assassins. Proof that Brice was involved and killed Susan is close. Hesselman believes Tom knows who Yuri is.

Eventually Tom confronts Brice in his office as Pritchard tries to protect his boss. Brice accuses Pritchard of being Yuri and Pritchard loses control and kills himself. Tom still has the printout of gifts Brice gave Atwell as well as the enhanced negative now showing
the lover to be Tom. He's picked up by two men and brought back to an office we assume is inside the Pentagon. But the men who picked him up and the "officer" who talks to him are with the KGB and we learn Tom Farrell is the Russian double agent.

Tom wasn't supposed to fall in love with Brice's mistress; just use her as a way of smearing Brice's reputation and the DOD as well. Tom doesn't want to return to the Soviet Union. He storms out still in his naval dress uniform saying he's no longer a mole.

True, the plot is complicated but there's a lot of action, with twists and turns, and the final surprise as we learn who "Yuri" really is. Casting Kevin Costner as the clean, heroic naval officer who turns out to be a sneaky, dirty Russian spy was clever and, let's face it, a lot of fun. We learn about how Washington works especially when there's a juicy scandal and what the people with the most to lose will do to protect themselves. Sean Young is beautiful and seductive and we see how easily Tom (and Brice) fell under her spell. All of the supporting players are believable as they, too, are seduced by the spies and the plots. A film worth revisiting in the New Year.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.


Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

When Is It Leaving? Where Is It Going?

I'd Forgotten About That Completely

He's a Spy? Yeah. Right.

May I Quote You On That?

A Penultimate Year For Movies

All Columns


Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).



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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.


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