Basic is a 2003 mystery-action thriller film directed by John McTiernan and starring John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, and Samuel L. Jackson. It is the second collaboration of Travolta and Jackson, following 1994's Pulp Fiction.
Basic film poster
|Directed by||John McTiernan|
|Written by||James Vanderbilt|
|Music by||Klaus Badelt|
|Edited by||George Folsey Jr.|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$42.8 million|
During a live fire exercise in the jungles of Panama, a team of Army Rangers trainees are led by Master Sergeant Nathan West. Sergeant Ray Dunbar emerges from the jungle carrying wounded Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall. The two men are pursued by Sergeant Mueller, whom Dunbar kills in self-defense. Although no other bodies are found, West's team is presumed dead.
Dunbar refuses to talk to Military Police investigator Captain Julia Osborne and insists on speaking to a fellow Ranger from outside the base, drawing an '8' on a piece of paper. The post commander Colonel Bill Styles calls in his friend: experienced interrogator, ex-Ranger and now DEA agent Tom Hardy, and assigns him to aid Osborne.
During interrogations of the survivors, they learn that West was infamous for being a ruthless, tough-as-nails sergeant. One of the trainees, Jay Pike, earned West's wrath for not following orders, and may have staged the murder.
Kendall, son of a Joint Chiefs of Staff general and a homosexual, claims West hated him and may have ordered a "training accident" on him. He claims West died when hit in the back with a phosphorus grenade. When Pike confessed to the crime, Dunbar wanted to turn him in; a firefight ensued and most of the trainees were killed.
Dunbar claims Kendall is lying and that Mueller and his fellow trainee Castro were illegally selling prescription drugs and West became aware of their drug dealing. Mueller used Pike's grenade to kill West and tried to frame Pike. A firefight broke out and several trainees were killed. Dunbar claims that Dr. Peter Vilmer supplied the drugs and falsified drug tests so that soldiers came out clean. After confessing to the crime, Vilmer is placed under arrest.
Styles orders Osborne and Hardy not to talk to Kendall again. They disobey and interrogate Kendall once more, but he suddenly begins vomiting blood. Before dying, he draws an '8' with his own blood. Hardy explains a rumor about a group of ex-Rangers in Panama calling themselves Section 8. They apparently trained under West, turned rogue and became drug dealers.
Styles is furious; he relieves Osborne of duty and tells Hardy to leave. He considers the investigation closed and a CID transport from Washington arrives to take Vilmer and Dunbar away.
Vilmer accidentally reveals that 'Dunbar' is actually Pike, and Hardy removes Pike from the plane just before takeoff. Pike explains that West learned about the actual operation going on at the base: cocaine smuggling. He confronted the Rangers and threatened to turn them in to authorities. After a brief firefight, West and the other trainees were killed. Pike took Dunbar's dog tags and carried Kendall to the extraction point. He then gives Hardy, Osborne, and Styles the number of a crate where Vilmer had stowed cocaine.
Hardy confronts Styles, determining he was behind the drug-dealing operation the whole time. When West reported the operation to Styles, Styles ordered Mueller and Kendall to kill him in the jungle, then poisoned Kendall to silence him. Styles tries to bribe Hardy before attempting to shoot him; Styles is instead shot and killed by Osborne, who was eavesdropping on their talk.
As the investigation concludes, Osbourne suspects that Hardy is still involved somehow; this is confirmed when she watches Pike sneak into Hardy's car. She follows them into Panama City, where they enter a bar with a big eight-ball hanging above. After going inside, she is greeted by West and the missing members of the team — Castro, Dunbar, and Nuñez, who Hardy reveals as his 'colleagues'.
They explain that Section 8 is a covert black-ops anti-drug unit led by Colonel Tom Hardy; the "insane mercenary" story is a cover to spook the cartels. The agents infiltrated the base undercover to investigate cocaine trafficking and discovered Mueller, Kendall and Vilmer were responsible. West, not realizing Styles was also involved, informed him of the drug dealing. The training mission became a covert Section 8 operation to circumvent Mueller and Kendall and fake West's death in order to transfer him to Section 8. Hardy was called in to confirm Styles' and Vilmer's involvement.
Impressed by her work, Hardy offers Osborne a job in the unit.
- John Travolta as DEA Agent (later Colonel) Tom Hardy
- Connie Nielsen as Captain Julia Osborne
- Samuel L. Jackson as Master Sergeant Nathan West
- Tim Daly as Colonel Bill Styles
- Giovanni Ribisi as Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall
- Brian Van Holt as Sergeant Ray Dunbar
- Taye Diggs as Jay Pike
- Dash Mihok as Sergeant Mueller
- Cristián de la Fuente as Castro
- Roselyn Sánchez as Nuñez
- Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Peter Vilmer
Reviews were mostly negative. The film received a rating of 21% from the critics aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics' consensus: "Basic gets so needlessly convoluted in its plot twists that the viewer eventually loses interest." Roger Ebert gave it one star out of four and wrote that it was "not a film that could be understood", and that "It is all smoke and no mirrors. If I were to see it again and again, I might be able to extract an underlying logic from it, but the problem is, when a movie's not worth seeing twice, it had better get the job done the first time through". Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide gave it two stars out of four and wrote that the film "keeps adding layers of confusion so that it becomes less interesting as it goes along! The final "twist" seems to negate the entire story, like a bad shaggy-dog joke."