Basic Reviews

Top Critic
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
March 31, 2010
Director John McTiernan does a swell job with James Vanderbilt's sneaky script in keeping us guessing.
Top Critic

Time Out
January 26, 2006
Top Critic
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
May 19, 2004
Top Critic
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
April 22, 2003
You can fall asleep in the first reel, wake up at the end, and know as much as anyone else.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
April 10, 2003
Made up of remnants from other, better films.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Ed Park
Village Voice
April 1, 2003
Nothing is as it appears, except the fact that nothing is as it appears.
Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
March 31, 2003
[Basic] had a great sense of itself and it had a lot of fun taking us from one corner to the next and then spinning us around until we got dizzy and didn't know where we were. I like that.
Top Critic
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
March 28, 2003
Travolta is a vital presence that constantly holds our attention, even when the script is threatening to lose it.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
Top Critic
Erik Lundegaard
Seattle Times
March 28, 2003
There are so many shifts, so many 'Gotcha!' moments, so many characters who are 'not what they appear to be' that, by the final twist, you've stopped caring.
| Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
March 28, 2003
The plot twists, reversals, false accounts, unreliable narrators and conflicting testimonies that make up the story of Basic are just not worth revisiting, unless one wants to tie one's brain into a knot for no discernible reward.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Jan Stuart
Newsday
March 28, 2003
Artificial, manufactured and devoid of credibility.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle
March 28, 2003
Basic is too busy changing rules and strutting its cleverness.
Full Review | Original Score: C
Top Critic
Vic Vogler
Denver Post
March 28, 2003
John Travolta is having fun -- a lot of it -- and that may be all the reason you need to wedge Basic into your post-Oscars film schedule.
Top Critic
Janice Page
Boston Globe
March 28, 2003
It's neither deep and interesting enough to be a brainteaser nor sufficiently thrilling to count as a mindless diversion.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
March 28, 2003
The movie is just too busy to be suspenseful.
Top Critic
Desson Thomson
Washington Post
March 28, 2003
Entertainment more suitable for the living room than the movie theater.
Top Critic
Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
March 28, 2003
By the end, you'll probably realize that the movie isn't about much of anything, except maybe the games it attempts to play with our heads.
| Original Score: C-
Top Critic
Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
March 28, 2003
The latest example of a thriller in which the beginning and the end make at least a tiny bit of sense, but the connecting stuff in between is just an inscrutable muddle of dumb twists, red herrings and ho-hum shockeroos.
Top Critic

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 28, 2003
Top Critic
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
March 28, 2003
There's no denying the film has a tendency to trip over its own ungainly strides, but it has enough firepower to entertain action fans -- as long as they don't look too closely.
| Original Score: 3/5
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
March 28, 2003
By the end, I wanted to do cruel and vicious things to the screenplay.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/4
Top Critic
Megan Lehmann
New York Post
March 28, 2003
Chases its tail for so long, it morphs from a whodunit into a who-cares.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
March 28, 2003
This is one of those plot-heavy flicks that topples under its own engorged bulk, leaving logic to suffocate and common sense to go begging.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Scott Von Doviak
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com
March 28, 2003
A 50-car pileup of twists and red herrings, few of which make any sense whatsoever.
Top Critic
Elvis Mitchell
New York Times
March 27, 2003
Someone decided to put Rashomon in a Cuisinart along with A Few Good Men, The Usual Suspects and A Soldier's Story, and hit the pulverize button while forgetting to replace the top.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/5
Top Critic
Mike Clark
USA Today
March 27, 2003
The tepid result is like Courage Under Fire without the compelling Meg Ryan angle, or Travolta's 1999 The General's Daughter without the sexual squalor.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
March 27, 2003
So unashamedly confusing, so intent on piling twist upon twist upon twist, it makes your head hurt just trying to figure out what's happened.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5
Top Critic
Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
March 27, 2003
A good con game movie follows its own rules and, at least in retrospect, makes sense. Basic changes scenarios every 20 minutes and finally trips over itself.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Glenn Lovell
San Jose Mercury News
March 27, 2003
Both clumsily manipulative and implausible.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
John Monaghan
Detroit Free Press
March 27, 2003
A military mystery that figures the more complex it gets, the more intrigued we'll be. It figures wrong.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
March 27, 2003
'Things are not what they seem, because we're kind of making this up as we go along, without any semblance of logic or reason, in order to make you feel stupid.'
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
Top Critic
Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 27, 2003
If we can't trust the narrators of the flashbacks, whom can we trust? Certainly not a director and screenwriter (James Vanderbilt) whose narrative approach is to repeatedly lay down a rug and pull it from under us.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
March 27, 2003
A Rashomon-like thriller that entertains and challenges you to pay attention, to figure out its plot and to connect its clues.
| Original Score: 3/5
Top Critic
Chuck Wilson
L.A. Weekly
March 27, 2003
Moviegoers aren't likely to be sold on the absurd plot twists doled out by screenwriter James Vanderbilt.
Top Critic
Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
March 27, 2003
When you get to the last Basic twist, I doubt you'll feel the movie played very fair with you, or that the situation makes much sense.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
March 27, 2003
The film is so clumsily -- and often confusingly -- told that you find yourself working awfully hard to stay with it.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
March 26, 2003
You can't handle the truth! -- or more to the point, it's not worth the effort.
Full Review | Original Score: D
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Variety
March 26, 2003
The picture feels far more dedicated to the proposition that a mystery can never have enough twists than it does to plausibility or dramatic integrity. But the teasing tale is told with such dispatch it will carry willing audiences along.
Top Critic
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
March 24, 2003
John Travolta and Connie Nielsen play the film's truth seekers, and each is interesting enough to carry an audience through an overly mechanical screenplay with little on its mind other than deceiving viewers.
Top Critic
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
March 23, 2003
The movie is so superficial that, once the mystery has been unraveled, all we do is shrug and walk out of the theater, slightly irritated at the waste of time and money.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4