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:: Basic

Tom Hardy (John Travolta) is an ex-Army Ranger turned DEA agent, who is drawn into an ever-widening mystery surrounding the disappearance of the feared and hated Sgt. Nathan West (Jackson), as well as several of his elite Special Forces trainees. This was to have been a routine military exercise during a hurricane in the jungles of Panama. Only two survivors are found, one of which is the son of a high-profile Joint Chiefs of Staff official. Neither is willing to cooperate with the head of the investigation Capt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) so tough guy Hardy is brought in to interrogate the survivors. From the outset, Osborne disapproves of Hardy who is suspected of taking bribes from local drug traffickers. Hardy interviews both survivors who confirm the death of the Rangers, but their stories differ and contradict one another. Osborne sets out to establish what fate befell West and his Ranger team out in the jungle.

From the Director of ‘Die Hard’ and ‘The Hunt for Red October’, comes ‘Basic’, the most inappropriately titled film to come along in a while. Its manic, sometimes confusing plot hijacks what from the outset looks like a reasonably interesting story with casting to match. This migraine-inducing army drama proves to be too clever for its own good, routinely introducing too many plot twists and character anomalies. There is just too little time in a film of this length (98 minutes) for such an intricate plot to instil any sense of intrigue.

Screenwriter James Vanderbuilt has said that he always wanted to write a screenplay with twists and turns in order to keep the audience guessing. The trouble with this film is that for this style of screenplay to work, the audience has to be able to deconstruct then reconstruct the actual events in order to find what they missed. In this film, there is absolutely no point. ‘Basic” is so convoluted and dense that there is no hope of solving any mystery because it has been too difficult to make any sense of the plot. And by the time any mystery is solved, we are simply too exhausted to care.