BASIC (2003)

Directed by: John McTiernan

Writing credits: James Vanderbilt

Starring: John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Timothy Daly, Brian Van Holt, Harry Connick Jr.

Running time: 98 minutes (U.S.)
Format: DVD, VHS
Rating: R (violence and language)
Genre: (Military)Crime/Mystery/Action/Thriller

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Basically, (no pun intended), this is a movie about a squad of soldiers who go off on a training exercise in the jungle of Panama and only two come back. Each of the returning soldiers has a different version of what happened to the others. The base commander calls in a buddy, an ex-Ranger played by John Travolta, who just happens to be a somewhat shady character. He is currently a DEA agent under suspicion of collaborating with a drug dealer. Travolta's character teams with the Provost Marshal on the base to interrogate the two soldiers who made it back to base.

Technically, there is a mystery to solve. What happened to the missing soldiers and why? There is also a crime, or two, to investigate. Again, involving the circumstances surrounding the missing soldiers.

The movie had potential but falls far short of being more than barely watchable. The twists and turns eventually don't work out to any satisfying conclusion. The viewer is cheated because the movie and ultimately the screenwriter didn't have the guts to take the story to its logical conclusion.

Once you start tinkering with the twists in a movie after you've plotted and scripted the movie, as in making this or that different than was originally planned, you shouldn't really hope for a coherent or enjoyable film. Basic is a good example of how to make a good idea into a bad film when you start listening to the actors...

It wouldn't be fair to reveal what was changed or how, but suffice it to say that the ending you will see is not the original plan and the entire movie suffers for it.

Despite the screenwriter claiming this is an entirely original concept, think "Clear and Present Danger" meets "Courage Under Fire" meets "Rules of Engagement" or "The General's Daughter" on a low-budget scale.

Even John Travolta fans will be hard pressed to find enjoyment or entertainment in this movie.

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