Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; A Writer's Perspective;
'Directors Design' featurette; Trailers; TV and radio spots.
THE publicity boasts that Basic marks the first pairing of John
Travolta and Samuel L Jackson since their winning double act in
Quentin Tarantinos Pulp
Fiction - yet anyone anticipating a re-run of that successful
formula is likely to be sorely disappointed.
Basic is an altogether different affair, a noisy military whodunit
with its eye on classics such as The
Usual Suspects and Akira Kurosawas Rashomon, which consistently
fails to realise any of its potential.
And as for the central pairing, they hardly share any scenes
together, being kept apart for most of the film, to the detriment
of all concerned.
Travolta stars as ex-Army Ranger turned DEA agent, Tom Hardy,
who is called out to a military base after a training exercise
goes wrong, leaving several soldiers dead, including their highly-respected,
yet hard-as-nails sergeant, Nathan West.
Teaming up with Connie Nielsens ambitious Lt Julia Osborne,
Hardy then sets about questioning the two lone survivors, Giovanni
Ribisis badly-wounded Kendall, and Brian Van Holts
Pike - intent on finding the truth, as well as what happened to
the bodies of the dead, which were presumably blown away in a
So far, so good, you would think, yet having established its
intriguing premise, Basic then sets about ripping it apart almost
as ruthlessly as the hurricane which rages for most of the proceedings.
The result is a mess - an inflated, overly gung-ho military thriller
that thinks it is a lot more intricate than it really is, and
which squanders the talents of a decent cast instead.
Travolta, who has been down this path before with the likes of
The Generals Daughter, seems content to ham it up, while
Jackson, when on-screen, does nothing but shout, coming across
as a hopelessly OTT caricature of just about every OTT drill commander
ever committed to screen.
Nielsen, on the other hand, is quite simply irritating as the
foil to Hardy, in what proves to be a completely thankless role.
But none of the cast is helped out by John McTiernans loose
direction, which plays up the machismo and testosterone, without
really making you, or allowing you, to care for the characters.
James Vanderbilts twisting script provides plenty of red
herrings, as the survivors stories change, but there is
only so much mileage to be gained from watching the same scenes
played out several times over, with only slight variations.
By the time the truth emerges, youre likely to be past
caring, while the shock twist itself is not so much an act of
daring bravado designed to excite, rather than a trick too far,
more likely to annoy and provoke the question, why?
The same question should be asked of Basics stars, for
in the final analysis, this sucks.