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As the latest addition to the Player Affinity staff, it’s my pleasure to head up a new column dedicated to expanding our collective cinematic horizons. The primary purpose of this is just to spotlight a film that you might enjoy based on what’s playing in the theaters at the moment. I invite you to share and discuss your own movie suggestions below as well.
Angelina Jolie’s latest action romp Salt bears a striking resemblance to a more intelligent if less explosive movie involving Russian moles in the government in 1987’s No Way Out starring Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman.
Tom Farrell (Costner) is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy working at the Department of Defense. At a reception, he meets a fine young dame named Susan (Sean Young). They hit it off, promptly engage in intercourse, and start a relationship. Unbeknownst to Tom, Sue’s kind of a floozy, and has been keeping company with Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman) as well. One fateful night, Mr. Brice accidentally kills her, and sets about creating a cover story that might implicate Farrell and a Russian mole known as “Yuri.” What follows is an intense game of cat-and-mouse as the two government agents try to outwit and trap the other to save their own skins.
No Way Out doesn’t just have a script that requires some brainpower, it also has those other things Salt simply didn’t have the time for that I, in my movie geekdom, get my panties in a twist over if they’re absent. Things such as Costner’s and Hackman’s nuanced and layered performances, which give us a window into the psychological dilemmas for the characters. Hackman in particular has a fantastic scene where he wrestles with the morality of the coverup as his assistant plays devil’s advocate. Salt wasted a good many of these opportunities with Jolie’s character, and what ones they did capitalize on were dealt with in a perfunctory manner.
Now I’m not nearly naive enough to think that the director of Salt, Phillip Noyce, gazed at the script and saw a wonderful character drama. It is what it is. Salt is a passable brainless action flick, but it’s also just one of a dozen. Creating some solid three-dimensional characters could’ve allowed it to be so much more. What it could have been, No Way Out is.
Moral of the story? At the end of the day the two films really are apples and oranges, just apples and oranges that both have in common undercover Soviets infiltrating high places in the United States government. Salt has the brawn, but No Way Out’s got a brain to go with it. It’s an ’80’s thriller of the highest caliber, with evil commies, green computer screens, and John Hughes hairdos.
Fun Fact: It’s also one of the select few films to have a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No Way Out
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Kenneth Fearing
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Will Patton, Sean Young