By Peter Hummers on April 29, 2021
In most movie twist endings, the twist provides the resolution of the story. From The Usual Suspects (streaming here), in which Keyser Soze turns out to be ██████, to The Sixth Sense (streaming here) in which ██████ turns out to have been ████ all along, the plot twist explains everything. That’s why, for the audience’s sake, the first rule of Fight Club (streaming here) was, Never talk about Fight Club. The following suspense movies kick it up a notch: Their plots resolve satisfyingly, and then a second, overarching revelation changes everything, triggering a desire to rewatch the whole thing.
No Way Out was a loose adaptation of Kenneth Fearing’s 1946 novel The Big Clock, which was first filmed in 1948 under the same title. No Way Out’s twist was added, probably prompting the change of title, setting and characters. Some say the added ending was gratuitous; I found it fun, and well integrated into the plot.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys) is invited to a ball by his college buddy Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Falling Skies), who intends to introduce him to Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman). There, Farrell meets Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner), and the two begin seeing each other. Atwell eventually tells Farrell that she is Brice’s mistress.
Later, after Atwell and Farrell return from a romantic weekend in the country, Brice visits her unexpectedly. After Atwell lets him in, the suspicious Brice demands to know the name of her other lover, but Atwell refuses and orders him to leave. Brice becomes enraged and accidentally pushes Atwell to her death over an upstairs railing. Brice then rushes to Pritchard’s apartment and tearfully confesses what has happened, stating he is ready to turn himself in. Pritchard suggests that if the other man is made out to be a suspected KGB sleeper agent code-named “Yuri,” then Atwell’s death could be made a matter of national security and “Yuri” could be killed “in the line of duty” by operatives under Pritchard’s control. Pritchard then cleans Atwell’s house of all evidence that Brice was there, and discovers the negative of a photograph Atwell had taken of her other lover earlier.
Pritchard calls in Farrell, and telling him the “Yuri” story, enlists him to lead the search, of course, not realizing that Farrell was Atwell’s other lover, and gives him the negative, which needs computer enhancement (a lengthy process in 1987) to be recognizable. Farrell has to give the computer lab the photo, while trying to delay its enhancement and sabotage other clues that will lead to him. As per the title of the source material, the clock is running: the final denouement will come when the photo is enhanced and Farrell is identified.
With a distinguished cast, helpings of suspense, and the candy coating of the final twist, which comes after the resolution of the plot, No Way Out is lots of fun. It was directed by Roger Donaldson, who directed one of my favorite Anthony Hopkins movies, The World’s Fastest Indian.
“Time is on my side.” (Kai Winding)
Denzel Washington and another stellar cast fill out this naturalistic supernatural police procedural thriller, which begins with a voice-over by Washington, who portrays Philadelphia Police Detective John Hobbes: “Let me tell you about the time I almost died.” We see Hobbes visit serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas, The Killing), whom he helped capture, on death row. Reese is in high spirits and, during conversation, grabs Hobbes’ hand and delivers a spiteful monologue in an unknown language, assumed to be gibberish but later identified as Aramaic. As he is executed, Reese mocks the spectators and sings “Time Is on My Side.”
Hobbes and his partner Jonesy (John Goodman) investigate a string of new murders reminiscent of Reese’s style, which they assume is by a copycat killer. Following hints given before his execution by Reese, Hobbes tracks down a woman named Gretta Milano (Embeth Davidtz). Gretta explains that her father, a former detective, killed himself in an isolated cabin after being accused of a series of occult murders similar to the ones Hobbes and Jonesy are investigating. Hobbes visits the Milano family’s abandoned lake-house. In the basement he finds several unsettling books about demonic possession. He also discovers the name “Azazel” written on a wall, obscured under layers of grime.
And it seems Azazel is stalking Hobbes. It appears that the demon is able to possess people, entering and exiting them by means of touch, essentially body-surfing. Hobbes, on the sidewalk, is accosted by a series of strangers in turn who catch his eye and sing “Time Is on My Side” (in their own voices) in a chilling sequence. But the demon’s harrassment doesn’t end there, and Gretta, who has researched the occult after her father’s suicide, rebuff’s Hobbes’ pleas for help. Hobbes is in a situation similar to that in John Carpenter’s The Thing, in which anyone could be his prey—and predator.
Hobbes finally hatches a plan to isolate whomever Azazel is possessing at the time and kill him or her, thereby leaving the demon with no-one to possess, and thus killing—or exorcising—him.
Among the cast are Donald Sutherland and James Gandolfini. Fallen was directed by Gregory Hoblit (NYPD Blue) from a screenplay by Elia Kazan’s son Nicholas Kazan. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a professional fancy-pants critics’ score of 40%, but the salt-of-the-earth audiences have given it a 72% score, much more in line with my estimation. It’s very entertaining, and the twisted ending is fire (as they say)!
Next time, Forgotten flatfoots Baretta, Hunter and Spenser: For Hire.
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