Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, and now he is in hot water, being questioned for hours by two C.I.A. agents about the events of the past six months. Going back to the start of the trouble, he had been invited by his old friend Scott Pritchard (Will Patton), who was an aide to the Defense Secretary David Brice (Gene Hackman), to meet people at this dinner, and had gone along not expecting much. But someone there did catch his eye, and after being effectively dismissed by an uninterested Brice, that was a compensation - and the start of his nightmare.
No Way Out was not a remake of the Sidney Poitier movie, er, No Way Out, but was a remake of The Big Clock, a neat little thriller from the forties that the screenwriter of this, Robert Garland, updated to be set in the world of American security, as much of it took place at The Pentagon. It became as well known for a scene set in a limousine as it was for its twists and turns, and the rumour was that hiring of such vehicles saw a rise in popularity when audiences got a load of Costner and co-star Sean Young getting it on in the back of one. But that part was only setting up the relationship - Farrell meets Young's Susan Atwell at that do - that causes him his problems.
Susan is working for Brice, you see, and he doesn't know that after he gives Farrell a job in light of his recent bravery award that the sailor is seeing Susan. Why is it important? Because Brice is having an affair with her, and he is far more powerful than Farrell will ever be, casting a shadow over his love for Susan because Brice has a lot more to lose if the affair is broken off, or discovered for that matter. It's the set up to what should have been a nailbiting thriller in light of how this turns out, but for some reason it doesn't work out that way, probably because if it was not for the script this would be bland fare indeed, with a notable lack of oomph to its machinations.
There are odd rewards, as Costner seems to think he's in a better film than he is, and gives it his full man under pressure stylings, but the film is not stolen by Hackman, who almost seems reasonable when he should really be the boo hiss baddie, but by Patton as the obsequious Pritchard. Apparently a strong influence on Smithers from The Simpsons, he is about as far gone in love with his boss as he can be without actually coming out of the closet, with the power that Brice is commanding the ultimate career aphrodisiac for this weaselly little man, played with much-appreciated relish by Patton. He brightens up every scene he's in throughout a film that is erring on the side of leaving out any ominous atmosphere that might have been to its benefit.
A sign that this was made in the eighties is that the story is in the thrall of computers, for a major subplot relies on one, although probably scuppering the idea of any remake using the same ideas, because the photo enhancing software in this takes hours to do its task, whereas now it would take seconds. Nevertheless, it does buy Farrell time when he knows it's his face on the incriminating snap and he's desperately trying to find other evidence that will nail the true evildoer and exonerate him, something that another computer is helping him with very slowly as it prints out a list of gifts that has recorded Brice's little trinket and therefore will have him bang to rights. If it were not for the occasional highlight, No Way Out would be middling at best, and only really springs into life in its last half hour, but even then is sabotaged by an unnecessary, illogical twist that they couldn't resist plonking on the end out of the blue. Music by Maurice Jarre.