Plot boiler

Movie: Basic

Studio: Columbia Tristar
Release Date: 2003-03-28
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Harry Connick Jr., Taye Diggs
Director: John McTiernan
Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt
WorkNameSort: Basic
Our Rating: 4.00

A crackling good popcorn movie with perhaps one too many twists in its pretzel of a plot, but a hell of a ride and good for about a half-hour's worth of conversation afterward to nail down what really happened. Newly buff John Travolta plays a possibly double-dealing DEA agent called in by an old Army buddy (Tim Daly of "Wings") to investigate a military training exercise that went horribly wrong and resulted in the death of a sadistic officer (Samuel L. Jackson) and several of his men. When two surviving members of his team start explaining what happened, it turns into "Rashomon" on steroids, with Travolta and his reluctant partner ("Gladiator"'s Connie Nielsen) left to sift out the truth. James Vanderbilt's script does an honorable job laying down clues if you're watching closely, and the mystery doesn't cheat until the very end, when the film's Hollywood DNA finally takes over. Travolta slips into affectation a couple times but is mostly that effortlessly charming rogue he does so well, and other than her come-and-go Southern accent, Nielsen shows movie-star qualities. Dynamically directed by the John McTiernan of "Die Hard" and "Predator," not "Rollerball" and "Last Action Hero."