Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 33
  2. Negative: 15 out of 33
  1. 25
    With style and energy from the actors, with every sign of self-confidence from the director, with pictures that were in focus and dialogue that you could hear, the movie descended into a morass of narrative quicksand. By the end, I wanted to do cruel and vicious things to the screenplay.
  2. 50
    Comes across as a cheesy, fundamentally unsatisfying experience.
  3. 50
    Their (Travolta/Jackson) teamwork was classic. Basic breaks up the team. What's up with that?
  4. 40
    As the mismatched interrogators, Travolta and Nielson seem to be in two different and incompatible movies.
  5. Just not worth revisiting, unless one wants to tie one's brain into a knot for no discernible reward.
  6. Travolta and Jackson have some effective scenes, but Nielsen is lacking in charisma, and James Vanderbilt's screenplay ought to be court-martialed.
  7. Another depressingly empty action thriller.
  8. So unashamedly confusing, so intent on piling twist upon twist upon twist, it makes your head hurt just trying to figure out what's happened.
  9. I must confess that I was outsmarted by the ending, but by that time my brain had been bludgeoned into a state just north of stupor.
  10. Entertainment more suitable for the living room than the movie theater.
  11. 38
    An overly convoluted, tiresome mystery that exists primarily to antagonize the audience, Basic consists almost entirely of dense exposition, then concludes by laughing at anyone who tried to pay attention.
  12. This effective, well-paced antimilitary thriller has more conflicting flashbacks than you can shake a stick at.
  13. 20
    Watching a movie should never be such torture.
  14. 20
    You might be tempted to say, "Huh?" Or, if you're in the theater, to leave. But wait -- there's less.
  15. It begins in a muddle and ends in confusion.
  16. When the film stumbles to its last and silliest conclusion, you realize much of the plot line was unnecessary -- or couldn't have happened at all!
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    The teasing tale is told with such dispatch it will carry willing audiences along; genre staples of action, macho attitude and corruption through the ranks are delivered intact.
  18. Travolta is the least of the film's problems. With a script by James Vanderbilt, whose first credit was for a movie about the tooth fairy ("Darkness Falls"), and directed by John McTiernan, last seen struggling with "Rollerball," Basic is a fundamental failure.
  19. The movie, one of those surprise-twist detective stories, doesn't really stand up to scrutiny in the cold light of the theater lobby.
  20. 40
    For twists to work, viewers have to feel like they're being led along, not jerked around, and James Vanderbilt's script eventually devolves into little more than a series of jerks, stopping short only of introducing evil twins and alien interlopers.
  21. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The tepid result is like "Courage Under Fire" without the compelling Meg Ryan angle, or Travolta's 1999 "The General's Daughter" without the sexual squalor. It all feels a little moldy.
  22. They made a movie without one basic ingredient: the story.
  23. Buy your ticket, sit yourself down, and let ol' John take you for a ride. You'll have a blast.
  24. 40
    Those expecting a reunion with Jackson, Travolta's “Pulp Fiction” co-star, should be prepared: They don't interact at all, which is a bit like casting Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and not letting them dance together.
  25. Basic really brings to mind a Travolta film from 2000, "Battlefield Earth," in that it's so astonishingly awful it becomes a sort of kinky pleasure; just when you think Travolta has fallen to the bottom of the barrel, he pulls out a shovel and dons his miner's helmet to see what lies beneath.
  26. 50
    Chases its tail for so long, it morphs from a whodunit into a who-cares.
  27. 58
    Basic essentially is a fun movie, surprise ending and all. To take it too seriously is to miss the point. Travolta is charming, his performance recapturing the old charisma.
  28. 38
    Falls flat on two fronts: It's neither deep and interesting enough to be a brainteaser nor sufficiently thrilling to count as a mindless diversion.
  29. Reviewed by: Ed Park
    Such confusion makes the script-flipping finale something of a respite, as it gives one an excuse to forget everything that's happened.
  30. Reviewed by: Kevin Carr
    Travolta’s performance in Basic is irritatingly familiar to his overacted, spastic performance in "The General’s Daughter." Either that, or he’s channeling Nicholas Cage from “Face Off” again.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 41 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 28
  2. Negative: 17 out of 28
  1. Aug 13, 2010
    I am the kind of film viewer who has the knack of losing a plot. Very quickly. So when I came to the end of Basic for the first time, thoroughly confused and befuddled, I supposed it was just me and that I needed to get my brain in gear next time. But it wasn't just me and no amount of brain power seems to help sort fact from fiction in this foggy mystery. Travolta and Nielsen play ex-ranger Tom Hardy and Captain Osbourne who are thrown together to investigate the disappearance of Sgt. West (Jackson) in a training exercise. Cue a baffling maze of twists and turns in which some of the key players are there and then not; some are killed off and then not; one turns out to be another...or not? And so on... but you do have to admire Osbourne for sticking it out and unravelling it all at the end. If it was me overseeing this mess, a bottle of wine and a darkened room would be where I was headed. I enjoyed the dark jungle action sequences, Jackson getting mad and the sort of chemistry Travolta and Nielsen had in their roles, but a lot of this was lost in the fog that shrouded much of this film. If like me, you are attracted by the Jackson / Travolta combo, you may be disappointed to find they share about five minutes on screen. Just don't expect to care much about either of their characters by the time it happens. Full Review »
  2. EmilyA.
    Jan 25, 2007
    I really enjoyed this movie. John Travolta and Sam Jackson are two of my favorite actors. I thought the twist behind it was very creative. At the end I just had to laugh! All the way through the movie you think it is something very serious and then Boom! Full Review »
  3. DonnieB.
    Jul 27, 2006
    It is amazing to see how the world is full of sub-intelligent moviewatchers and critics, who find it hard or impossible to understand a more complicated plot then the one of "Lassie". Such people feel insulted by their own weak ability to comprehend anything more complicated than a wooden edge, so in frustration give a 0 for movies that make people think. What would you give for Revolver? A minus 5?? It's a surprisingly good movie, with an excellent script - if you like to think besides chewing popcorn, watch it! Full Review »