March 2003

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: John McTiernan
Producers: Mike Medavoy, Lee Nelson, Dror Soref, & Michael Tadross
Screenplay: James Vanderbuilt
Music: Klaus Badelt
Cast: John Travoltra, Samuel L. Jackson, Brian Van Holt, Connie Nielson, Timothy Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Taye Diggs, Rosalyn Sanchez, & Harry Connick Jr.


There are a few things that drive us to go see a movie. I could name about 3 for starters. One is the plot of the movie. It’s has to be something that we could be interested in. Two, are the actors in the films. There are actors who could do no wrong and have fans willing to see any of their films. Finally, there’s the outcome of the film. If you go by the commercials that convinces you to see the film, then you'll have a pretty good idea as to how the film will end if you are a regular filmgoer and have seen the same story done before. It’s just a matter of how the plot is executed. Now, when a film is not as predictable as you first thought and confuses the heck out of your mind, then your opinion of the film may not be favorable if you can’t explain it to anyone. Such is the case with “BASIC”, John McTiernan’s latest film. Filled with twists and turns, I found this film to be totally fun, and engaging. One could call this film a combination of “The Usual Suspects” meets any of David Mamet’s films and still find it senseless, but at least they would have been entertained. Who wants to see a film where you can guess the plot developments and the outcome? Certainly not I and neither should you. “Basic” is a thrilling film that will have you come back for repeat viewings.

Told in a “Rashomon” sort of way, the film starts with the introduction of Sgt. West (Jackson) as he takes his Army troupe to a training expedition in the muddy fields of Panama. Seventeen hours later when Base commander Styles (Tim Daly) goes looking for his men, he’s shock to see that they are shooting at each other with real bullets. Brought in for questioning is Dunbar (Van Holt), one of the men caught shooting. He was carrying Kendall (Ribisi) on his back when caught. Wanting to speak to an Army ranger he doesn’t know, Styles brings in his old buddy and a former student of Sgt. West, Tom Hardy (Travoltra), currently a DEA agent and under suspicion for bribery. Not happy about a civilian doing the questioning is Lt. Julie Osborne (Nielsen), the base inquisitor. Seems that many soldiers including Sgt. West were killed, but the reason for that isn’t clearly established. Kendall, holed up in the hospital with a bullet in his leg, is telling quite a different tale. With the stories between Dunbar and Kendall shifting back and forth, Hardy is at a loss for words for he can’t figure out who’s lying. Styles pressures him to get to the heart of the truth before he loses command of the situation and before authority figures over him come and take the case.

BASIC will have you for a loss of words. That’s because you will probably walk away without some clarification as to what’s going on. It’s not easily predictable and the plot developments are totally off the charts, but you will be entertained. Travoltra is just having fun with his role. He’s at ease with the persona he’s created for himself these days; someone who has a devilish attitude and some wit. Jackson is just mean and tough as the Sgt. Although this is the first film for Travoltra and Jackson since “Pulp Fiction”, they are not paired together as their previous film. Van Holt is getting good at playing roles of the military. He was recently in “Windtalkers” and “Black Hawk Down”. The film has a good role for Taye Diggs, who needed a break from taking the usual romantic roles he’s done lately. Connie Nielson, who’s currently playing an authority figure in “The Hunted”, is able to hold her own with Travoltra when he tries to steal most of the spotlight. As mentioned earlier, if you’re looking for a film that will keep you interested and guessing its outcome, then “Basic” is the film to see. The dots may not connect, but at least you will be amused. You make the call.