“Basic” arrived when John Travolta was nearing the end of his big comeback run. “Pulp Fiction” helped make him a star again, and that immediately kicked off an era where Travolta was in seemingly everything, and not always for the better. “Basic” is definitely one of his lesser films, even though it reunites him with Samuel L. Jackson and features a supporting cast that includes Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi, Taye Diggs, and Harry Connick Jr.
As mentioned above, the film flopped at the box office, and critics didn’t like it much either. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote, “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.”
And what’s it about? Well, here’s the synopsis:
During a special operations training mission in Panama, four U.S. soldiers are killed mysteriously, and their leader, Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson), goes missing. A military investigator, Capt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen), has trouble convincing the two survivors to talk about what happened that night. A more experienced investigator, Tom Hardy (John Travolta), is brought in to crack the case. However, when the survivors do start talking, their stories differ from one another.
Yes, that’s right, Travolta’s name in this movie is Tom Hardy, just like the famous actor who does all those silly voices.
There are a lot of twists and turns in “Basic.” In fact, there are so many twists that the movie starts to become ridiculous, although some may argue that’s part of the charm. “Basic” takes a “Rashomon” approach, telling one story from several different points of view. What’s the truth? Is any of it true? Is everyone lying? You’ll have to head to Netflix to find out.