Saw this on 8/1/14
Basic is a film with one of the most number of twists and at most of it's 1hr 38min duration, it relies more on it's twists. It's performances are good, so is John McTiernan's direction. In the end, basic stays afloat.
one specific small part was when the colonel "slipped up" when being questioned about the dead patient. he responded "you think i poisoned him" when no one else knew that yet. i know it could happen but for someone running an elaborate drug scheme and trying to avoid decades in jail, you would think he would be a little more careful.
when i first watched the film in theaters, i thought the final twist was awesome. now it just seems out of place, forced, and extremely convenient. it seems like they just made up a bunch of stuff to try to confuse people until they get to the final twist, which is basically "haha just kidding everyone is alive and everything you just watched was a lie"
Then there are other huge coincidences, like why was travolta chosen to investigate an incident that just so happened to involve half of his super secret team? you could argue that they set it up that way, but if that was the case then travolta knew that the colonel was dirty and the entire investigation was useless. And he was hand selected by the colonel because he was being investigated for bribery and might have been buy-able.
There are a lot of plot holes, I'm sure I could find more if I watched it again. It tried to be too smart for its own good. (3 views)
Basic is very remeniscent of the 1996 war drama Courage Under Fire in which the protagonist must investigate a scandal relating to the death of a military official and get the story out of many people who have different versions of the events. But due to a large quantity of story flaws, it fails to live up to the standard that Edward Zwick set by his film.
Basic is a complicated film. The plot structure of the film constantly flips back and fourth between the modern day interrogations of trying to figure out the mysterious story and the flashbacks in the stories that are being told by those who are involved. This is likely to wear viewers down, particularly because the politics behind the characters' actions are so complicated. But to make it worse, the story itself is so convoluted that keeping up with it is such a challenge. The characters keep on changing in motivations and their stories constantly differ which means that things just keep on getting more and more complicated. There are so many characters in the film and keeping up with who all of them are is way too much, and since they keep on changing the story based on their own perspectives, the actual truth is so hard to pick up on. As the story progresses towards its resolution, understanding the truth is a challenge for the characters but more so for the viewers, and by the end of it there were so many random plot twists in the characters that when the film had ended I was overcome with questions. I'll admit that I was partially inclined to go back and watch it again because there was enough style in the film to encourage me to view it again, but viewers should be able to understand a film the first time. The fact is that Basic rushes through so much plotting at a ridiculously quick pace which really is not a good match. And as a final note for the film, the final plot twist in the film ends up negating quite a bit of of the film because it really seems rather unnecesarry. It doesn't really add that much and instead just complicates the story further when it is already beyond the brink of comprehension.
There are so many plot twists that begin to pile up on the film. I really tried hard to follow them because I seriously wanted to enjoy Basic as a John McTiernan film, but he really challenged my patience this time. It is easy to see why his presence is a benefit, but since the screenplay is not up to his level of expertise in filmmaking, it causes there to be an imbalance between style and subtstance. It is rather ironic that the title of the film is Basic as it is the furthest thing from that in the end due to the excessively complicated nature of the plot. The screenplay of the film is too complicated, despite having decent language. The one notable flaw in the dialogue is the subtle romantic element of the story. The playful romantic chemistry between DEA Agent Tom Hardy and Captain Julia Osbourne is not necesarry to the story. It is intended to add a subplot to the characters in the film, but it really does nothing for the characters and seems like little more than a distraction from the main premise without much payoff. It is no good for either of the characters bec ause it doesn't make sense at all, and so that is one flaw in James Vanderbilt's dialogue, second to the fact that it is not clear enough to clarify what the characters or the story are saying.
Also, although this is more of a minor plot point, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson receive very few scenes together. They receive little screen time themselves as a whole due to the narrative structure, but since the film boasts the both John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson who portrayed the duo of Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield. Fans of Pulp Fiction may be expecting the presence of both actors to evoke memories of the aforementioned masterpiece. But the characters are sorted into completely different ends of the plot structure which means that all they do is appear in different chronology until the final scene of the film where they finally meet. There really could have been a way to capitalise on the actors being reunited, but Basic comes up short in that area to. So Basic is dealt some harsh damage by its screenplay due to a convoluted narrative and overly complex language.
But I will admit that despite its narrative flaws, John McTiernan did help the film out as the director.
His abilities for crafting a strong visual style remain as good as ever. The scenery for the film is powerfully convincing and it is all captured with intensely atmospheric cinematography. The story feels like a fully legitimate one, and the budget is not misused in capturing John McTiernan's vision. He helps to make the entire film more tense, and he succeeds well because the visual style of the film is great, especially during the intense jungle scenes. Some viewers could be irritated by the darkness and strobe lighting during these scenes, but I for one was not. The atmosphere is heavy during these moments because the themes of the story are tense and the flashing light emphasises the darkness and makes the general feeling shaky in the best sense of the word. It can be fazing, but as a whole it proved to be a fairly intense experience which is positive for the mood of the film.
Also, the musical score of Basic is brilliant. It is intense and strikingly climactic on the right level which ensures that a lot of intensity is felt, as well as the way that it succeeds in establishing the scale of events. Despite following a small selection of characters, the intense musical score helps in establishing that they are part of a bigger picture. Basic seriously succeeds well as a treat for the eyes and the ears, even if it doesn't have the same effect on the brain.
And the cast of Basic make a decent effort as well.
John Travolta makes a solid lead. His performance doesn't have as much screen time as you might hope, but his confident demeanour allows him to deliver every line without fear or even having to pause for a second thought. He is so intensely in character throughout all the complicated material without a second where things don't make sense to him. He is passionately strong in the material and the nature of his line delivery anchors the role really well which makes him a viable factor in leading to the film's success. It is great to see him make an intimidating turnaround after his pathetic "villainous" performance in Battlefield Earth because this time he reminds us that he is good at antagonising all kinds of people. His performance is surprisingly effective because he is never the slightest bit confused by the material, and also because he works through some of the lacklustre material which he has not always been able to do too well. John Travolta is the best actor in Basic, and his performance adds a lot to the film.
Connie Nielsen is burdened by the film, however. Her character does little but play second fiddle to John Travolta as Tom Hardy, and when she tries to transcend that she fails. Connie Nielsen is a limited actress who is not yet ready to take on the big leagues. amd Basic serves as a reminder of that because her character is very arbitrary for most of the story. And despite sharing a decent chemistry with John Travolta, she is stuck in a weak character which she cannot do anything with and therefore gives a formulaic effort. It isn't that she's particularly bad, it's just that she isn't strong enough to be anything far short of miscast.
Samuel L. Jackson is nothing short of strong in Basic. His screen time is more minimal than John Travolta's, but in it he uses the most commanding talents he has as an actor. He uses the nature of his voice to make himself the centre of attention easily and to capture focus, and he is physically involved in the part so well that he is unflinching. His stare is paralysing with power, and the funny thing is that his effort is practically routine because there is little character to the part. And yet, he just takes the role and destroys the concept of failure. It is not an option to Samuel L. Jackson, and so although he is not capitalised on enough at all, he makes a fine supporting effort.
Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Holt, Tim Daly and Harry Connick Jr. all deliver intense supporting efforts as well which brings a strong edge to the wider array of characters as they interact.
So Basic has a mostly powerful cast and the benefit of strong directorial work from John McTiernan, but the story is way too much to handle and that simply drags it all down.