John Travolta continues to search for his comeback film in Basic, a military suspense film that borders on being exciting but just doesn't quite cut it.
Travolta stars as a DEA Agent who has been brought in to investigate a strange case involving his missing ex-commander (Samuel L. Jackson). One night, on a training mission, an elite Army Ranger squad went into the jungle and didn't return. The Army was able to confiscate a dead body, a wounded man (Giovanni Ribisi) and another that completely refuses to talk. Travolta, along with his co-star Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), attempt to get the truth out of him, but, as it turns out, the truth is a matter of perspective. The two survivors both have different stories, and things may even be more complicated than that.
Travolta does an excellent job, delivering a strong and solid performance as the matter-of-fact interrogator who ends up realizing that not everything is simple. He controls every scene that he is in; this is the Travolta of old, the Travolta of Face-Off and Broken Arrow days. Matched with the superb acting of Connie Nielsen, there is no question about the acting.
The script is also good, but there are too big elements that are shaky.
One, the direction. John McTiernan (the Die Hard movies) is a good director and overall Basic is quick and to-the-point. The movie stumbles only in its more crucial moments; that is, during the flashback sequences to the jungle. When the alleged murders took place, hurricane-level winds were tearing through the trees. This makes it very hard to hear. At least on DVD, I wasn't able to hear half the things that people were saying; in other words, I felt as though I missed some crucial elements of the movie.
Two, the plot. This one is questionable, as Basic borders on having a kick-ass plot with enough twists to satisfy anyone. Some people undoubtedly will enjoy the plot and thus the movie immensely; I was not as blown away. Basic has several plot twists throughout its hour-and-a-half running time, but none of them really made me gasp. For the most part, the plot twists basically just come from different stories, and at the times when Travolta figured something out, I usually had guessed them ahead of him. Also, I became confused by some of the names (as some of the characters' names change throughout the course of the story), which didn't help when a new twist emerged. Whose fault is it now?
The plot twist at the end is a little better, but even that one is a little lackluster; the movie just seems to peter out.
All in all, Basic is an entertaining, engaging movie with some good acting and interesting story. The final payoff is a little lackluster, but some will enjoy it more than others. It undoubtedly will make for a good rental.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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