Film: Basic

Basic is a 2003 thriller film directed by John McTiernan.

John Travolta plays Tom Hardy, a DEA agent and former Army Ranger operating in Panama who is called upon by old Army buddy Bill Styles at a nearby base to investigate a training exercise that was being led by Hardy's old drill sergeant Sgt. Nathan West. A training exercise that resulted in multiple casualties.

The only things known for sure is that after a prolonged and grueling training period, Sgt. West took half a dozen of his Ranger trainees to a remote location for a live fire exercise just as a hurricane is barreling down on them. After 17 hours without radio contact, a helicopter is sent in to pick them up. As the helicopter draws near, one trainee can be seen carrying another who is apparently wounded. Suddenly a third trainee pops out of the forest and starts shooting at the two of them. After an exchange of gunfire, the third trainee goes down.

None of the others (including West) have been found, and neither of the witnesses are talking. To get to the bottom of what happened and why, Hardy and Army investigator Julie Osbourne will have to deal with lies and deceptions from the moment that Hardy sets foot on the base, and it'll only get worse as the witnesses do start talking and try to spin what happened to their own benefit.

This film contains examples of:

  • Arc Words: "All we have to do is tell the story right..."
  • Artistic License – Military: Ranger training is intense and grueling, but no army in the world would let West use some of the methods he does. Then there's the fact that West's rank insignia keeps changing, no women graduated from Ranger training until 2015, etc. That said, numerous characters practically say that West only got away with using such methods because of his prestige, and also virtually everyone was lying, and Nuñez was part of Section 8 and therefore only undercover as a Ranger, not an actual one.
  • Batman Gambit: Hardy acts this way through most of the movie, though it takes a second or third viewing to see it as such. A particularly good example is when he tries to get Osborne to leave Kendall out of the report to Styles after their interrogation of Vilmer. He knows she won't leave it alone, so he sets her up to push the issue, thereby leaving him to seemingly follow her lead.
  • Blast Out: Several of the flashbacks end up in this.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: After Hardy comes to suspect Styles is involved, he tries to do this. At first Styles brushes it off and calls Hardy's bluff, but then he tries to bribe Hardy into silence.
  • Dirty Cop: Hardy is under investigation, accused of taking bribes.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The movie revolves entirely around US Army Rangers.
  • Faking the Dead: Pretty much everyone who was killed in flashbacks is revealed to not be dead.
  • Gambit Pileup
  • Helicopter Blender: Hardy threatens this as part of his Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Subverted, Styles points out that as Kendall was vomiting blood before he died, poison is a reasonable guess.
  • Large Ham: Hardy.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident/The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: In the words of Sgt. West: "Those of you I find lacking will quit. And those of you who refuse to quit will have a training accident. This base suffers three training accidents a year. Unfortunate accidents that I will not hesitate to repeat if you cross me!"
    • Well, accident may not necessarily imply that they will die, just that they will be too severely injured to continue.
  • Mildly Military: The movie had so many inconsistencies and non-military actions, that the film was hard to follow. For example:
    • Samuel L. Jackson's character wears the rank of specialist (E-4) and has higher-ranking people addressing him as "sir."
    • The film featured a female Ranger without any comment on it. In real life the first successful female graduates of Ranger training only happened during the summer of 2015, (and the Army may still refuse to allow them to formally serve as Rangers) and the film is set at least a dozen years earlier and not in an alternate universe.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Once the witnesses start talking, things just keep escalating. Since we started with five people presumed dead, (one of whom is described as "The face of the modern Army") that's rather impressive.
  • The Neidermeyer: West.
  • Never Found the Body: It's commented that as none of the bodies can be found, proving anyone's story will be hard. Justified, as it's also said that hurricane could have blown the bodies anywhere. Even more Justified, they aren't actually dead.
  • The Rashomon An interesting case, as we see the same two perspectives through multiple retellings. In addition, none of the stories are true. The truth isn't revealed until the very end, and technically, we never find out exactly what happened on the island.
  • Rogue Agent: A story circulating around the base is that a group of Rangers who trained under West (and like everyone else, hated West) went rogue and set themselves up as a drug syndicate. Now West and most of his latest group of trainees are missing...
  • Scary Black Man: Sgt. West, who is also a Bald Black Leader Guy.
  • Training from Hell: They even call it Green Hell.
  • Unfriendly Fire