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Movie Review: Basic

[ BASIC POSTER ]A 2003 mystery-thriller with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson? You got it.

I’ve seen Travolta in plenty of films and he always produces as does the illustrious Jackson. It would be hard for this film to fail given these two actors in the same film but I’ve said that about quite a couple of films that I’ve reviewed and I was proven wrong.

There’s a difference with this one though: I’ve seen it before. Ha!

A Ranger training exercise in Panama goes terribly wrong when only two of the seven come back alive and one is seen killing another. Colonel Styles (Timothy Daly) doesn’t have the utmost confidence that Captain Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) can find out what really happened so he calls in a friend, an experienced interrogator named Tom Hardy (Travolta), who’s currently being investigated on suspicion of bribery.

The two people who come back alive are Ray Dunbar and Levi Kendall. Dunbar is the one seen killing his fellow ranger while Kendall is injured during the skirmish.

The plot has the potential to be confusing because Hardy is getting different accounts of what happened from Dunbar and Kendall, but it wasn’t for me. The dialogue can be strained at times because when Dunbar and Kendall tell their respective stories, they give us a flashback and show characters yelling over the hurricane, meaning this isn’t one of those movies where you only have to be half involved to know what’s going on. Nearly everything said involves some sort of plot development, whether it be through Dunbar and Kendall’s accounts of what happened or character interactions.

This film features uncertainty and apprehension as the audience tries to figure out what really happened. While you don’t know what’s going on, it’s not frustrating because you can tell the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Travolta is charismatic and authoritative and Jackson even more so. It’s almost as if they’re competing with each other but sadly aren’t on-screen together. However, they’re both dynamic and likable even if they’re rough around the edges.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (ScroogeThe Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Green MileThe Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (PoseidonIron ManLone SurvivorThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingThe Next Three Days)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (21 Jump StreetEscape PlanCaptain America: The First AvengerDawn of the Dead, Flyboys)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Pacific RimThe Long Kiss GoodnightDisaster Movie)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (AliensAlien ResurrectionFull Metal JacketThorYou’re Next)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Patriot GamesThe Great GatsbyPitch BlackAlienSerendipity)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30’s ironically define the 1930’s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The ContractPride and PrejudiceRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Sum of All FearsThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Midnight CowboyDark FuryAlien 3Open Grave)

My score for Basic: 89.

You think the movie’s over and then there’s a surprise twist. Then you think it’s over, only to be proven wrong again. And then you’re practically getting out of your chair for a stretch because you’re like it’s got to be done now, and then the biggest twist of all jumps out and grabs you. It’s not a chore sitting through the 98 minute running time nor is it a bore. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are a sure thing when it comes to entertaining in Basic. All they have to do is tell the story right.

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