Basic


Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by:James Vanderbilt
Starring: John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Timothy Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt
Released: May 29, 2003
Grade: C+

Six men went on a routine army training mission in Panama and only two have returned.  In charge was the demanding drill sergeant Nathan West (Jackson) but he too is missing.  Of the two survivors, Levi (Ribisi) is in the hospital with gunshot wounds and Dunbar (Holt) sits silent in the interrogation room.  Lt. Julia Osborne can’t get a word from Dunbar and untrusting of all, Dunbar says he’ll only speak to a fellow “ranger”.  With an urgent explanation needed before going public, base leader Col. Bill Styles (Daly) calls on an old friend to help out.

Styles once trained in the army with ranger Tom Hardy (Travolta) and although they haven’t seen each other for years, they happened to run into each other in a car park a few days ago.  Styles calls Hardy and asks a favour – to “unofficially” interrogate Dunbar and Levi to get solve the deepening mystery.  Both Dunbar and Levi both acknowledge that the rest of their party has been killed but they have significantly differing versions of how it happened.

Few movie thrillers are ever an open and shut case.  That would just be boring wouldn’t it?  Screenwriters are obsessed with creating twists, surprises, shocks, bombshells or whatever else you want to call them.  Here’s another example of a film which goes one step too far.  Too many twists have spoiled the broth and it culminates with a ludicrous final scene.  Sure it might seem to wrap up nicely but put some thought into the realism of this scene and what might actually happen if the film were to continue.

Another annoying cliché that features far too often in Basic is that of the unexpected revelation.  Every time Tom and Julia appear to have reached a dead end, one of them suddenly puts a piece of the puzzle together so that the adventure can continue.  This repeatedly happens and Tom and Julia make sure to share these revelations together so they can develop trust and appreciation in each other’s knowledge.  I wonder if real-life detectives and private investigators watch movies like this and just laugh.