Basic (2003)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Trailers

When a military exercise ends with an instructor and a number of Rangers dead, DEA officer Hardy (John Travolta) is brought on to investigate the case and find out what happened in the jungle of Panama. The only two survivors of the exercise have very different stories as to what went down, and it is up to Hardy and his assistant Osborne (Connie Nielsen) to find out the truth. A truth that goes way beyond what first appears to be a simple hate crime.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is bringing us ’Basic’ in a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ration on this DVD in a transfer that is, of course, enhanced for 16×9 television sets. The image is meticulously clean and stable without any mars. The transfer reveals a very high level of detail and the strong colors of the film are nicely reproduced without oversaturation or color shifts. No edge-enhancement is visible in the transfer and the compression has been handled equally well. In a word, the presentation is fawless.

The DVD comes with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track in English and French, both of which are making very aggressive use of the split surround channels, engulfing the viewer in a sea of sound effects at times. Especially the riveting jungle scenes are highlights here with bullets whizzing through the air from all directions. The music also makes good use of the wide sound field and dialogues are well integrated, always nicely standing out over the music and sound effects, remaining fully understandable at all times.

The release is accompanied by a few featurettes, though they are mostly promotional fluff –interview segments of little real value or information other than the obvious. Much more interesting is the commentary track that is included on the DVD, featuring director John McTiernan, that offers real insight in to the making of the film.

’Basic’ is an interesting mix of an action movie and a thriller – murder mystery to be more exact. The fascinating part about the movie is the way it wiggles and twists. Every time you think the solution has been found, a new piece of evidence pops up that makes the supposed events implausible, forcing the investigators to go back and dig a little deeper. As the truth unravels, the case becomes more and more complex and by the time the movie ends, the viewer has been taken on a ride with quite a few surprises. ’Basic’ may not be the ultimate in nicely plotted crime mysteries, but it is definitely a thoroughly enjoyable film that invites viewers to keep guessing along, and surprising them with nice little twists.