“All We Got To Do Is Tell The Story Right”

Someday, I’ll have to do a full commentary on Basic, because . . . wow, does this movie just defy all description. But here are a few notes that I made a couple of days after re-watching the film.

1.) I like Basic. A lot. My affection for the film is inexplicable. Some movies you stand up and fight for; some movies you recite detailed lists, 87 bullet points on why such and such is the best example of post-modern ninja-noir that you’ve ever seen. And then there are movies like Basic.

Honestly, I can’t put together a cohesive argument for Basic. I don’t even know why I like this movie so much; I just enjoy the hell out of it, even though it’s ridiculously overcomplicated, and even though it has a rapid and gigantic change in tone in the last five minutes that kind of makes no sense? But I like it anyway? I swear, I think this is what the writers did when they were coming up with the script.

Writer Joe: Okay, so we did this little twist here and this little turn there.

Writer Susan: Yeah, and then we did our awesome twist there, so we could just add a denouement and finish this thing before Survivor comes on.

Writer Joe: Yeah, we could do that. Or . . . we could add more twists.

Writer Susan: Gosh, Writer Joe, I do like my twists.

Writer Joe: I know what you mean, Writer Susan. I do too. So I was thinking, we could psych out the audience with a super lame twist that everybody would hate, and then, just when everyone’s thinking, damn, that movie sucked monkey balls, we hit them with a final, EPIC twist.

Writer Susan: Gee, that sounds good. But what could we do as our epic twist? I just don’t know.

Writer Joe: Me either . . .

Writer Susan: Well, we could always {spoiler content deleted}. Hee hee hee!

Writer Joe: Ha ha ha! That’s so funny, Writer Susan. Why, that would change our whole movie!

Writer Susan: You’re right as usual, Writer Joe, but let’s try it anyway, just for a joke.

Writer Joe: That sounds like fun, Writer Susan.

{They finish the script with new joke ending.}

Writer Joe: Gosh, that’s so crazy. I almost wish we could really use this ending, just to fuck with people.

Writer Susan: That WOULD be pretty funny. Hee hee . . . huh.

Writer Joe: . . . huh . . .

Writer Susan: Oh, fuck it. Let’s just do it.

No, I didn’t bother to look up who wrote the film. I’m also not quite sure why Writer Joe and Writer Susan became Joe and Frank Hardy from Christopher Durang’s, “The Hardy Boys and The Mystery of Where Babies Come From,” but there you go. The writing process in a nutshell.

2.) Of course, the ending isn’t the only odd part of the story that doesn’t quite match everything else that happens in the film. Basic is kind of a random patchwork quilt of guilty pleasure, intrigue, gunfire, and John Travolta. The opening scene itself is a voiceover by Connie Nielsen, and while there’s nothing wrong with the wording of the narration, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the movie. I mean, here’s the voice over:

“The French tried to build a canal here before the Americans. At the height of their effort, 500 workers were dying every week from malaria and yellow fever. They couldn’t come up with cemetery space fast enough, not to mention the morale problem all those crosses would have made. So they bought shiploads of vinegar in Cuba, and in each barrel, they sealed one corpse. And then they sold them as medical cadavers all over Europe. And for a while, that was their principal source of profit. You see, this place has always had a special way of dealing with both profit and death.”

And sure, this movie has some death in it, and profit is certainly important to the plot, but the wording of that monologue makes it sound like the location of the place is exceptionally important, you know, like it’s the tenth character in the story or something, the way a haunted house is almost its own character in a scary movie? That’s not really the case here at all, and Writer Joe and Writer Susan never really go back to the theme of “profit and death” in any kind of meaningful way. So it’s sort of tacked on to serve a dual purpose: one, make the opening scene more dramatic, and two, introduce the lamentable aspects of your film from the get-go, namely that your Danish female lead is quite incapable of pulling out an authentic or even remotely believable Southern accent. Seriously, Connie Nielsen. You have some nice moments in this movie, but your Southern is really just preposterous.

3.) Although, the bad Southern accent is almost requisite in a guilty pleasure, isn’t it? You people should check out Mindhunters sometime. Now, that is an amazing example of so-bad-it’s-good movie, and I think Jonny Lee Miller’s Texan accent is at the top of my list for oh-my-god-you’re-trying-to-twang-aren’t-you-oh-you-poor-poor-thing. British actors, for some reason, always seem to be at the top of this list.

Still . . . Basic is kind of fun to watch just to listen to the actors talk. I mean, clearly, Connie Nielsen’s Southern is horrific. John Travolta, on the other hand, often talks through teeth that appear to be clenched together with some kind of bonding glue. (He does this in Broken Arrow, as well, leading to one of my favorite lines of all time: “Would you mind not shooting at the therm-o-nuc-u-lear weapons?”) Then Giovanni Ribisi, for whatever reason, decides to do a pitch-perfect imitation of director John McTiernan’s voice for the role of Kendall, and it’s freaky, man; it doesn’t even sound like Ribisi at all. Finally, there is Samuel L. Jackson and his blessed over-enunciation of every single word he says. (“RAAAAAAAAngers do not wait on good weather. RAAAAAAAAngers do not wait for bright sunshiny days.”)

Like I said. Patchwork quilt of weirdness, people.

4.) It is, I believe, legally impossible for Samuel L. Jackson to not look like a badass. Seriously, I want this cape. (Mekaela insists it’s probably a pancho. To hell with that. Super Cape of Doom, with matching Beret of Doom! I could rock that look.)

5.) Other stuff that doesn’t quite fit in with the film: the title. According to Hardy (John Travolta), “Murder is basic.” It’s an interesting sentiment. I’m sure that, in another film, one could make a very dark, intriguing mystery based on the idea that everyone is capable of murder, and that there need be no vast conspiracies or shadowy villains for people to kill other people. However, that film is so far away from this one that it’s kind of absurd. There is NOTHING basic about this film, nothing. Everything IS twists and turns and vast conspiracies. Besides, Writers Joe and Susan, once again, utterly fail to ever bring the concept back into the story. What the hell’s it even doing here?

A better title for this movie? Who Killed West? Right to the point, that is. Or, if that’s not to your liking, maybe Section 8 or Rangers! or even The One Where Harry Connick Jr. Gets Hit Right In The Kisser.

I think that one would sell a lot of tickets.

6.) All in all, I think Tim Daly might showcase the worst acting in this movie. He’s not horrible. He’s definitely got some decent moments in there (I like his total dismissal of other people’s opinions, particularly Julia Osborne’s) and he doesn’t have the worst line in the movie. (That would be Julia Osborne with her, “Mister, I’ve had it with you.” Ugh. UGH. I’m just cringing thinking about it.) But even with “the line” and Connie Nielsen’s atrocious Southern accent, she does pretty well as Osborne, and, ultimately, I just can’t buy Tim Daly as military. At all. Even in a ridiculous movie like this, full of all kinds of crazy military inaccuracies. Just don’t see it.

7.) Best inarticulate noise of utter frustration:

Arrrrrrrgh, what don’t you know?”

Pike (Taye Diggs)

Best motivational speech:

If you lose enough times in your life, what you are is a loser.”

Styles (Tim Daly)

Best not-so-subtle threat:

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.”

West (Samuel L. Jackson)

Best bitchy smile/response:

“Now, how does that make you feel, Jules?”

Hostile and uncooperative, sir.”

-Osborne (Connie Nielsen)

Best psycho:

Nunez (Roselyn Sanchez).

I have no real quotes to back this up. Sanchez just delivers all of her lines like she’s about to take your still-beating heart out of your chest and eat it in front of you.

8.) In movies, it’s very common for the interrogator to get close up to the suspect and whisper in his or her ear, as a means to be a) intimidating, b) creepy, c) sexy, or d) some strange combination of all three. It’s particularly common for men to be the interrogators, and it’s something I call the Mortal Kombat Interrogation Technique, as both Raiden and Shang Tsung do this to Sonya Blade. (You expect it from Shang Tsung; he IS the bad guy, after all, although why she had to be in a short dress and bad hair is beyond me.) The whole scene with Raiden is just creepy and weird. Raiden, God of Thunder and Lightening, is kind of a perv. Just saying.

In Basic, the Mortal Kombat Interrogation Technique is done twice. Both interrogators, surprisingly, are female. Nunez, naturally, makes the scene work, because Roselyn Sanchez is gorgeous, and because Nunez is batshit crazy, and I would be terrified to turn my back on her. Osborne (Connie Nielsen,) on the other hand, just seems kind of pathetic.

If Nunez had been the one interrogating Dunbar (Brian Van Holt) the movie would have ended five minutes in.

9.) I haven’t mentioned them much (it’s hard to talk about their best moments and scenes without going into spoilers) but I like all the work done by Brian Van Holt, Giovanni Ribisi, and Taye Diggs in this film. Actually, most of the supporting cast is pretty good, and all of the actors play off each other very well. I feel a little bad for Cristian de la Fuente, though. He’s not bad or anything; I think he just has the least to work with.

10.) Finally, about that end . . . well, I can’t say much without spoilers, so here’s what I will say. The characters that are in the final scene have a great chemistry with one another, and though the tonal change to the film seems radically out of place, like, it belongs in an entirely different movie . . . I just really like the scene. I want to see a sequel to this film based solely on that scene. Fuck the rest of the movie—which is fun; I mean, it’s a little ridiculous, yeah, but, mostly, it’s a pretty decent action-thriller—but I just want to see another film that is entirely based on the last five minutes of Basic. That is a movie I would go see in theatres.

In conclusion, and solely because he’s pretty:

Best Eye Candy of The Film: Taye Diggs. Love you, Taye.

3 thoughts on ““All We Got To Do Is Tell The Story Right”

  1. Sorry hang on… you LOVE Basic? Love? Really?

    I mean, I saw this quite a while back. Someone else had rented it, but I knew it contained Samuel L Jackson being badass, so I was pretty receptive. I watched it all the way through, taking everything in.

    And then the ending basically said, “oh yeah, everything you saw before was a bunch of lies”. In fact, there were so many lies that I had absolutely no idea who any of these characters were or what kind of victory they’d just won. People who I’d been convinced were life-long enemies were actually good friends.

    I’ll read your article now, but I doubt anything you have to say is going to make up for the issues I had with this movie. *shrugs*

  2. and even though it has a rapid and gigantic change in tone in the last five minutes that kind of makes no sense? But I like it anyway

    Ah…. you noticed it too.

    I was gonna say, “well that’s that cleared up”, but in a way this just makes things more confusing….

    *carries on reading*

  3. Pingback: Top 12 Favorite Guilty Pleasure Movies | My Geek Blasphemy

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