Basic film poster
|Directed by||John McTiernan|
|Produced by||Mike Medavoy
|Written by||James Vanderbilt|
Samuel L. Jackson
Harry Connick, Jr.
Brian Van Holt
Cristian de la Fuente
|Music by||Klaus Badelt|
|Editing by||George Folsey Jr.|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release dates||March 28, 2003|
|Running time||98 minutes|
|Country||Germany, United States|
The film is McTiernan's final film to date.
In Panama, a team of Army Ranger trainees and their instructor, Master Sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson), engage in a training exercise: navigate the jungle in hurricane conditions, using live fire to hit targets, then rendezvous at a bunker.
Hours later, a trainee, later identifying himself as Ray Dunbar, emerges from the jungle carrying a wounded comrade, Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall, while a third soldier, Mueller, pursues, shooting. In self-defense, Dunbar kills Mueller. The mission had gone horribly wrong and the rest of the team with West are presumed dead.
In interrogation, Captain Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) finds Dunbar refusing to talk. He insists on speaking to a fellow Ranger from outside the base, and draws an "8" inside a circle on a piece of paper. Spooked on seeing the "8", base commander Colonel Bill Styles (Timothy Daly), calls in an experienced interrogator and friend, Tom Hardy (John Travolta), an ex-Ranger, now a DEA agent under investigation for suspicion of bribery and assigns him to Osborne. Hardy and Osborne have only 6 hours before the CID transport from Washington arrives to take Dunbar and Kendall away.
During interrogation, Hardy reveals to Dunbar that he served under West as a Ranger, and mentions West is infamous for being a ruthless, tough-as-nails sergeant.
Dunbar relates that a trainee in his unit, named Pike, earned West's wrath, and went on the Panama training mission with Dunbar, Kendall, Mueller and two others, Nuñez and Castro. Hardy and Osborne suggest that, with plenty of reason to hate West, Pike had motive to murder him. Dunbar refuses to say more.
Hardy and Osborne then go to see Kendall, son of a Joint Chiefs of Staff general, recovering from gunshot wounds. At the hospital, Hardy runs into Dr. Peter Vilmer (Harry Connick Jr.), an old friend and Osborne's former love interest.
Kendall reveals he is a homosexual and claims West hated him because of it, and that West silently threatened his life shortly before the mission began, partnering him with Castro for the mission, and feared West may have ordered Castro to give him a "training accident."
Kendall claims West died when hit in the back with a white phosphorus grenade and that Pike confessed to the crime, thinking his comrades would be "on board" with him in support. However, the team decided to turn Pike in. In the night, Pike tried to gain Kendall's sympathies, playing on their mutual hatred of West. Pike proposed killing Mueller and Nunez and convincing Dunbar and Castro to back them up. Kendall dismissed Pike's suggestion, but later spots Pike whispering to Dunbar. Kendall says Dunbar went back to his bag, extracted his pistol and aimed it at the sleeping Mueller. A firefight ensued, and Mueller shot Castro, who fired and hit Nunez, Kendall and Pike. Nunez and Pike die and Kendall is wounded. Dunbar then carried Kendall, exchanging fire with Mueller to the pickup point, as seen at the start of the film. Asked why Dunbar would rescue him, Kendall suggests maybe Dunbar expected him to cover for him in gratitude.
Dunbar's second story
Dunbar, now accused of murder, says Kendall is lying and claims he didn't shoot West. Hardy notes Kendall claimed West died from a grenade, not shooting.
Dunbar claims Mueller and Castro were selling prescription drug kits called "combat cocktails" to help dull physical pain and sharpen the mind; that Mueller shot West, who became aware of their drug dealing, and claims Mueller then used Pike's grenade, stolen from his pack earlier. At the bunker, Mueller tried to pin the blame on Pike, but Pike pointed out evidence throwing suspicion on Mueller. A fierce argument ensued and Mueller executed Pike. A firefight broke out and Castro and Nunez die. Dunbar rescued Kendall and during the pursuit killed Mueller before the helicopter pickup.
Dunbar provides proof of the drug-dealing operation, and states Vilmer supplied the drugs to Mueller and Kendall.
Kendall's second story
Osborne and Hardy return to the hospital and speak with Dr. Vilmer, who admits that he distributed drugs to Mueller and Kendall and that he falsified drug tests so the soldiers would come up clean. Vilmer is placed under arrest. Styles orders Osborne and Hardy to not talk to Kendall again.
But Hardy and Osborne confront Kendall, who is acting very strangely and refuses to give them any useful information, but still claims that Dunbar was the guilty party. Kendall begins bleeding out of his ears, suddenly starts vomiting blood, and abruptly dies. Before he dies he uses his blood soaked finger to draw on Osborne's palm what she thinks is the sign of infinity. Shortly after, she realizes it is an 8. She shows this to Hardy, who indicates ignorance of its significance. She suspects he knows. After a brief physical fight, he takes her aside and explains the conversation he had earlier with Styles. There is rumored to be a group of ex-Rangers in Panama, trained under West, who turned rogue and became drug-dealers. They call themselves Section 8.
Styles is furious that Osborne and Hardy talked to Kendall a second time after he explicitly ordered them not to. He relieves Osborne of duty and asks Hardy to leave. He informs them that Dunbar and Vilmer will be taken away shortly on the transport plane that has arrived from the U.S. and he considers the investigation closed.
At the stockade, Vilmer casually observes to Hardy and Osborne that he will be on the same plane with Pike. Hardy corrects him, saying that he'll be on the same plane as Dunbar, but Vilmer says that's not right. Ray Dunbar is black. The white "Dunbar" Hardy and Osborne have been questioning is in fact Pike, the man whom West antagonized during training (according to his own story). Pike had switched his tags with Dunbar's, in order to throw off the local authorities and disappear, after being transported for trial. Hardy and Osborne rush back to the base just as Pike is being taken onto a transport plane. Hardy grabs Pike and holds his face dangerously close to the plane's whirling propeller. The two engage in a brief screaming match, although what they say is inaudible. Pike then drops to his knees, out of breath. Afterward, Hardy and Osborne lead Pike away to interrogate him again now that they know the truth.
Pike's final explanation
In Pike's new story, West was not shot, and he claims West knew about the main operation going on at the base: cocaine smuggling. He claims West confronted the Rangers in the bunker and told them that he would turn them in to authorities in the morning and tell Styles everything. A brief Mexican standoff ensued and West escaped the bunker. Nuñez chased after him and was shot by West. Shortly after, Castro and Mueller went looking for West, Pike found Dunbar dead, West shot Kendall, wounding him, and tried to convince Pike to give himself up. Pike says Mueller managed to kill West, that he then shot at Mueller, and knowing that he would be blamed if West died, took Dunbar's dog tags. It is still established that he managed to escape, carried Kendall through the jungle, killed Mueller and was picked up by the helicopter.
As proof, he gives Hardy, Osborne and Styles the number of a crate where Vilmer had stowed cocaine, and they open it.
Hardy then talks to Styles alone. He asks why West wouldn't tell Styles about the drugs as soon as he suspected something. He then accuses Styles of lying, and believes West did in fact go to him, but that Styles was behind the drug dealing operation the whole time; that rather than side with West, Styles ordered Mueller and Kendall to kill him in the jungle and then poisoned Kendall afterward to keep him quiet. Osborne, meanwhile, approaching the office, overhears, and secretly listens. Styles laughs off the accusations, but as Hardy starts to leave, Styles offers him a percentage of the operation, once he's back in business, to keep his mouth shut. Hardy declines his offer and turns to leave. Styles draws his weapon and is about to shoot Hardy, but is killed by Osborne.
Final twist and explanation
After the Military Police wrap up the investigation into Styles' shooting, Osborne is about to leave the base for the night and Hardy tells her that everything's fine and all she has to do concerning the shooting is "Tell the story right." Osborne recalls hearing that phrase during both Kendall and Pike's stories, describing how members of the conspiracy planned to cover up West's death.
Osborne suspects Hardy may be involved, especially since he hated West and because Section 8 contains West's former trainees. She tails him out of the base, and sees Pike run out from some roadside bushes and get into Hardy's jeep. She follows them by car, and then by foot through the streets of Panama City crowded with costumed revelers and watches as the two of them enter a doorway with a big eight ball hanging above it. Osborne sneaks through a long hallway, down a flight of stairs, and up behind Hardy and Pike, with her weapon drawn, believing that they are behind both Section 8 and West's murder. Then West, very much alive, walks up behind her. Castro, Dunbar and Nuñez are also there, fixing breakfast.
They reveal to Osborne that Section 8 is actually a black-ops anti-drug unit led by Tom Hardy (who is addressed as "Colonel"). The "Section-8" insane-mercenary story is a cover to spook the cartels. Dunbar, Castro, Nuñez and Pike (not their names) infiltrated the base to investigate the cocaine trafficking that was going on, and discovered Mueller, Kendall and Vilmer were responsible. West, not realizing Styles was also involved, informed him of the findings. Styles responded by ordering Mueller and Kendall to kill West. The training mission ordered by West was in fact a covert Section-8 set-up to get rid of Mueller and Kendall, and fake West's death (in order for him to join Section 8), and Hardy had been called to the base by the coded message from "Dunbar" to confirm Styles' and Vilmer's involvement. West and Hardy then offer Osborne a job.
- John Travolta as DEA Agent (later Colonel) Tom Hardy
- Connie Nielsen as Captain Julia Osborne
- Samuel L. Jackson as Master Sergeant Nathan West
- Tim Daly as Colonel Bill Styles
- Giovanni Ribisi as Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall
- Brian Van Holt as Ray Dunbar
- Taye Diggs as Jay Pike
- Dash Mihok as Mueller
- Cristián de la Fuente as Castro
- Roselyn Sánchez as Nuñez
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Dr. Peter Vilmer
The movie grossed $26,793,311 in the US. Reviews were mostly negative. The film received a rating of 21% "fresh" (positive) reviews from the critics aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes. Most reviews criticize the film. Roger Ebert gave it one star out of four and wrote that it was "not a film that could be understood", and that "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". Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide gave it two stars out of four and wrote that the film "keeps adding layers of confusion so that it becomes less interesting as it goes along! The final "twist" seems to negate the entire story, like a bad shaggy-dog joke."
- Official site
- Basic at the Internet Movie Database
- Basic at Rotten Tomatoes
- Basic at Box Office Mojo