Welcome to “Basic” soldier!

By Gus Bode

a href=”https://www.dailyegyptian.com/contactus.html”bDE Staff Reporter/b/abrspan class=”realsmall”bDaily Egyptian/b/span

Starring:Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Connie Nielsen

2 1/2 Gus Heads


Welcome to “Basic” soldier! During the 98 minutes you are in this film you will go to the hellish green jungles of Panama, and you will be trained by a drill instructor who probably has it in for you. Finally, you will be psychologically ripped in two by the best interrogator the D.E.A. has. Most of all, you will be bent and turned through maniacal plot twist after maniacal plot twist. So soldier – does this seem like your idea of a good film? Does it, soldier?

Despite having a few too many of the aforementioned plot twists, “Basic” is a good flick. While reuniting the two biggest stars to come out of “Pulp Fiction” (despite little screen time together) can only be good for business, the fact is that both Samuel L. Jackson (the maniacal Sgt. Nathan West) and John Travolta (agent Tom Hardy) are good actors who have it in them to be great. While too many “Battleship Earth”-type flicks have made Travolta seem like a joke, he does a good job in “Basic” and Jackson reciprocates.

The plot of this movie seems like the standard military thriller/drama, but it twists around. This is the type of film where if the viewer likes trying to figure things out, they are probably going to enjoy this film, too. If the particular viewer needs the plot to be a little more cut and dry, this is certainly not the film for you.

While the basic plot makeup is a little hard to explain without giving away the twists that both make and break “Basic,” it goes something like this:Jackson leads a group of Ranger trainees into the jungle on a training exercise during a hurricane. The next day, the base commander cannot find any of the team members, and then stumbles upon one ragged survivor carrying out a wounded comrade and firing his M-16 into another of the team members.

The soldier is brought back to the base for questioning, but refuses to speak to anyone other than another ranger from off of the base. Travolta is an ex-ranger and current D.E.A. agent stationed near the base. He is under investigation for accepting bribes, and was trained by West himself 15 years earlier. Hardy takes a younger interrogator, Cap. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen), under his wing and seemingly gets the answer he wants.

Of course, not all is as it seems. Soon it is revealed that West was murdered by a disgruntled trainee. The wounded soldier carried out of the training zone turns out to be the gay son of one of the joint chiefs, and somehow, all of the soldiers are involved in a revolving drug scheme.

Soon more bodies and more plot twists show up, and at a blistering pace, the storyline becomes more confusing than “Mission Impossible.” While this movie tries very hard to be good, the convoluted plot keeps it in the place where it starts. Mysteries are great, but a resolution is a must. “Basic” happily keeps the film exciting until the very last minute, but the excitement is certainly diluted by the confusion involved. Hard to figure out is a lot different from damn near impossible, and many viewers will probably leave the theater shaking their heads.


While “Basic” is an entertaining film, the confusing plot and complex minor characters make it hard to achieve greatness. Furthermore, for someone who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery or a military drama, the plot twists and turns will be even more aggravating. While the film does have good acting and above- average directing and cinematography, the constant switching make it too hard to follow, and it doesn’t achieve the potential it is certainly capable of.