No Way Out (1987 film)

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No Way Out
No Way Out (1987 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Produced by
Screenplay by Robert Garland
Based on The Big Clock
by Kenneth Fearing
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography John Alcott
Edited by
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date
  • August 14, 1987 (1987-08-14)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $35.5 million

No Way Out is a 1987 American political thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, and Sean Young. Will Patton, Howard Duff, George Dzundza, Jason Bernard, Fred Thompson, and Iman appear in supporting roles.

The film is a remake of The Big Clock (1948). Both films are based on Kenneth Fearing's 1946 novel The Big Clock. Filming locations included Baltimore, Annapolis, Arlington, Washington, D.C., and Auckland, New Zealand. The film features original music by Academy Award-winning composer Maurice Jarre. The film is dedicated to the memory of its director of photography John Alcott who died after principal photography had wrapped in July of 1986, over a year prior to the film's eventual release.


U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell is interrogated by two men about how he first met Secretary of Defense David Brice. Farrell describes being invited to an inaugural ball by his college buddy Scott Pritchard, who intends to introduce him to Brice. Pritchard hopes that Brice will transfer Farrell to the Pentagon. On meeting Farrell, Brice is unimpressed and virtually ignores him. Moments later, Farrell begins flirting with another guest, Susan Atwell. The two have sex in her limousine and begin a secret relationship, even though she admits to also being involved with a married man. Farrell returns to sea and rescues a crewman from being washed overboard during a storm. Brice reads a newspaper story about the rescue and orders Farrell transferred to his intelligence staff.

After Susan and Farrell return from a romantic weekend, her married lover – Brice – arrives at her door. After urging a hurt and jealous Farrell to leave through the back door, Susan assures him that she will leave Brice. Brice sees a man leaving Susan's house but cannot see that it was Farrell. After Susan lets him in, an enraged Brice demands to know the name of her other lover, but Susan refuses and orders him to leave. Brice resists, and ultimately pushes Susan to her death over an upstairs railing. After calling Pritchard, Brice is ready to turn himself in since he had been seen by Susan's other lover. However, Pritchard suggests that if the other man was made out to be a suspected KGB sleeper agent code-named "Yuri", then the other man's elimination could be made a matter of national security. Pritchard cleans Susan's house of all evidence that Brice was there, and discovers a negative of a photograph Susan had taken of Farrell earlier. The negative shows a very poor, unidentifiable image of a man.

Unaware that Farrell was in a relationship with Susan, Brice orders him to find and arrest "Yuri" and places him in the position of investigating himself. Farrell is told that the city police have not been informed, and that CID officers, commanded by Major Donovan, have been assigned to conduct the investigation. Meanwhile, to protect his concocted story, Pritchard sends two former CIA assassins to eliminate everyone who knew of Brice's affair with Susan, beginning with her girlfriends. Attempts to enhance the photo negative begin to bear fruit due to computer expert Sam Hesselman. Meanwhile, Farrell sets out to conclusively link Brice to Susan by searching computer files for evidence that Brice gave her a government-registered gift from the Moroccan foreign minister.

Needing more time, Farrell convinces Hesselman to delay the work on the photograph. CID officers bring two witnesses to Donovan who saw "Yuri" with Susan during their weekend. They cross paths with Farrell in the Pentagon and recognize him. Farrell escapes, but the CID begins a search of the Pentagon, knowing that "Yuri" is somewhere in the building. Farrell eludes the search and tells Hesselman that Brice had slept with and killed Susan. Hesselman helps him find the Moroccan gift registered in the State Department database and initiates a print-out so that Farrell will have physical evidence implicating Brice. Thinking that Farrell is delusional, Hesselman tells Pritchard about Farrell's relationship with Susan and his belief that Brice murdered her. Pritchard thanks Hesselman and then executes him.

Still trying to avoid the CID search, Farrell returns to Hesselman's office and seizes the registry printout. He confronts Brice with this evidence and threatens to go to the police if the search for him is not called off. After Donovan reports that Hesselman has been murdered by "Yuri", Pritchard tells Brice that Farrell was Susan's other lover and adds that if the man in the photo is "Yuri" then Farrell is "Yuri". Knowing that Farrell has the printout, Brice improvises a different story: Pritchard, who is homosexual, killed Susan because he was jealous of Brice's relationship with her. A devastated Pritchard commits suicide and is apparently revealed to be "Yuri", concluding the search. Farrell quietly sends the printout to the Director of the CIA, an enemy of Brice. As Farrell leaves the Pentagon, the image enhancement of the photograph positively identifies him as Susan's other lover.

Farrell is picked up by several men while sitting despondently at Susan's grave. The flashback ends, and it is revealed that Farrell actually is the storied and long-sought "Yuri", the KGB's mole in the Department of Defense. Aware of Brice's affair, the Kremlin had ordered Farrell to seduce his mistress and gather intelligence from her. Implying that he should have blackmailed Brice instead of exposing him, Farrell's interrogators angrily berate him, saying the situation was "poorly handled". Farrell's handler arrives, tells "Yuri" that America is no longer safe for him, and that it is time for him to return to the Soviet Union. Revealing that he genuinely loved Susan, Farrell refuses and tells his handlers that he is finished being a KGB mole. After he leaves the safe house, his handler snaps, "He'll return. Where else does he have to go?"



Box office[edit]

The film debuted at number 2 at the box office after Stakeout.[1] The film's budget was an estimated $15 million; its total U.S. gross was over $35 million.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was very well received by critics and as of September 8, 2018, holds a 91% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews.[3]

Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, calling it "truly labyrinthine and ingenious."[4] Richard Schickel of Time wrote, "Viewers who arrive at the movie five minutes late and leave five minutes early will avoid the setup and payoff for the preposterous twist that spoils this lively, intelligent remake of 1948's The Big Clock."[5] Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote, "The film makes such good use of Washington and builds suspense so well that it transcends a plot bordering on ridiculous."[6]


  1. ^ "Stakeout' Ranks No. 1 In Box-Office Sales". The New York Times. September 2, 1987. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  2. ^ "Box office / business for No Way Out (1987)". IMDb. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  3. ^ "No Way Out". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 14, 1987). "No Way Out". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  5. ^ Schickel, Richard (17 August 1987). "Cinema: Hot Films, Unhappy Endings". Time. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  6. ^ Thomson, Desson (August 14, 1987). "No Way Out". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2013.

External links[edit]