No Way Out, the 1987 neo-noir political thriller starring Kevin Costner, is now streaming on Max. Based on the 1946 novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing, Costner plays Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell, a man caught up in a murder investigation. Though he’s the one investigating, the clues don’t line up.
The film is a mixture of dark romance and intriguing political conspiracy. Farrell forms a romantic bond with Susan Atwell (Sean Young), a woman involved with his boss, Secretary Brice (Gene Hackman). After being murdered by Brice, Farrell leads the investigation that attempts to cover up the culprit.
The 1987 political thriller No Way Out is streaming on Max.
This isn’t the first time Kenneth Fearing’s book was adapted for the big screen. In 1948, it was adapted as the film The Big Clock, starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton. Another adaptation would follow in the 1978 French film Police Python 357.
No Way Out marks the third adaptation of the novel, this time from director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) and screenwriter Robert Garland (The Electric Horseman). While the other versions stuck closer to a crime thriller format, this film weaved in elements of the CIA, Soviet Union, and sleeper agents.
Costner’s role in the film is notable for his involvement with the stunts. He performed most of his own stunts, including a scene in which he rolls over the hood of a moving car.
In addition to getting more involved with the stunts, Kevin Costner would also improvise his lines. The limo scene, for example, has him ask the driver to raise the screen. The other actors, not in on what he was trying to do, gave genuine reactions that were left in the film.
No Way Out marks the third adaptation of the novel, this time from director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) and screenwriter Robert Garland (The Electric Horseman).
No Way Out marks an early role for Kevin Costner that may have helped launch his career. During the 1980s, Costner only had a few roles in films like Silverado and The Untouchables.
Soon after No Way Out, Costner’s presence as a leading man exploded. He’d be the big star of such notable hits as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. He’d play a leading man and even direct, as in his award-winning historical epic Dances with Wolves.
It’s a good thing that Costner went for this role. The other actors considered were Mel Gibson and Patrick Swayze, who turned it down. If they had starred in the film instead, Costner might not have been given a chance to prove he could be a leading man.
Another notable name who turned down the film was Michelle Pfeiffer. She would be cast in the role of Susan before Sean Young was chosen. Although Young had been featured in films like Blade Runner and Dune, this is one of her more grounded roles as her first romantic thriller.
And there’s another actor one might not expect in this film. Brad Pitt makes an uncredited appearance as a party guest, making this his second role ever. Keep your eyes peeled during the party scene for this surprise.
The cinematography in the film appears sharp thanks to the late John Alcott, who unfortunately passed away soon after the production had wrapped. Some of the stunning locations shot included Arlington, VA, and Washington, DC, perfect for a story about the CIA.
With the film taking place at the Pentagon, one might think the film would be shot there for accuracy. While the Pentagon wouldn’t allow shooting inside the building, they did allow the filmmakers to shoot one scene at the entrance. The Pentagon hallway scenes were instead shot at the Department of Interior.
The film was a solid hit at the box office, considering its $15 million budget. Although it came in behind the buddy-cop picture Stakeout, the film would ultimately gross $35.5 million. The critical praise was high for No Way Out, garnering a 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
No Way Out’s Many Firsts
In addition to watching the film for a young Kevin Costner, No Way Out has a lot of firsts. It was the first time Cosner had worked with director Roger Donaldson, later reuniting on the 2000 political thriller Thirteen Days. It was the first time Costner worked with Gene Hackman, who later appeared with Costner again in 1994’s Wyatt Earp.
So, if you’re in the mood for a political thriller where Costner rolls over a car and Pitt crashes a party, this is a 1980s neo-noir picture you must check out.
No Way Out is currently streaming on Max.