Director John McTiernan, after directing the horrible “Rollerball” remake, displays a high energy thriller which is beautifully directed; there some great shots in the film and the right mood and tension but ultimately it’s all wasted beneath the muddled confusing story. Taking it’s lesson from the classic “Rashomon”, an infantry group witnesses a murder take place attempting to rescue some survivors that never returned from a mission; they soon learn there was a large incident that took place and attempt to discover what occurred. Finding no options they call in DEA agent Tom Hardy played by the energetic John Travolta to take the reigns and interrogate the survivors and unfoil what occured while assisted by the scruffy Lt. Julia Osborne who discover a plot involving sadistic Sgt. Nathan West and his soldiers who hate him with a passion, and soon find much more beneath what looks like murder and drug dealing within the troop.
“Basic” is one of those cinematic meals that has all the proper ingredients for a military crime thriller but fails to bear any truly memorable taste and the end result is ultimately bland and sour. I entered “Basic” with high hopes despite the fact that it was criticized by many critics, I hoped to find something in the film that I could take with me and use to find something positive or redeeming. Unfortunately, this does have qualities to it but none that made me give the end rating a higher rating than it truly deserved. I was hoping for a good film and at the beginning I was sure that is what I would get; we watch the story unfold and slowly we’re introduced to some truly likable characters. As we take mental notes (As I did) about what begins to unfold we’re almost sure of what will be the end result.
“Rashomon” was an influential film that many filmmakers attempt to create with a mystery involving different people with different opposing views on what occurred among them in an isolated incident. “Basic” attempts to be exactly that or at least a carbon copy with an admirably all-star cast (Travolta, Jackson, Taye Diggs, Rosalyn Sanchez, Tim Daly), but little admirable story. John Travolta gives an energetic performance performance that kept me watching all the way through paired with Connie Nielsen who more than manages to hold her own with Travolta and gives off some excellent chemistry with him. The two spar back and forth with one another in a battle of wits and wills that kept me interested the entire way through. Tim Daly gives a great performance as the sleazy officer Styles, and the rest of the all-star cast of character actors don’t fail to supply the added tension needed for a film such as this.
Along with such we have a cast of actors that are wasted in the folds of the story, Taye Diggs and a basically unrecognizable Rosalyn Sanchez have roles that waste their talents along with the always likable Tim Daly as a sleazy officer, Harry Connick Jr., and Giovanni Ribisi, and then there’s Samuel L. Jackson who gets top billing with Connie Nielsen and Travolta but barels has a role to be acknowledged. Most of his parts are through short flashbacks, and a ridiculous ending which ruins and wastes Jackson’s acting talents so immensely, it’s criminal. As we take mental notes we watch another plot twist which automatically contradicts our pre-conceived conclusion forcing us to begin again, and as we’re done coming to a second conclusion, yet another plot twists occurs within the film forcing us to do it all over again and again. Sooner or later we begin to feel as if we may never get a true resolution and we just give up altogether.
For you to understand this we might have to watch this again, but this isn’t much of a movie to spend time watching it all over again. “Donnie Darko” and “Memento” had plot twists that we didn’t understand but were such good movies we’d be willing to watch it again and again until we understood it, but “Basic” fails in its attempts in every aspect up until the climax of the film which is so utterly ridiculous that we inevitably feel conned and duped. I was so angry with the final scenes of the film which are so ridiculous and tend to eliminate all the time we wasted on the film and become a lighter film completely and awkwardly out of place with the first two segments we watch; this was a truly frustrating film indeed. While this had potential to be a stellar thriler with beautiful directing and great acting, this was ultimately a poor effort with a confusing story and ridiculous plot twist after plot twist.