Basic (Blu-ray) (2003)

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Released 3-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 94:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John McTiernan
Studio
Distributor

Icon Entertainment
Starring John Travolta
Samuel L. Jackson
Connie Nielsen
Timothy Daly
Giovanni Ribisi
Brian Van Holt
Taye Diggs
Dash Mihok
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Klaus Badelt


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (2304Kb/s)
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Military based mystery thriller Basic commences in the Panama jungle where the driving heavy rain is compounded by a looming hurricane and almost impenetrable vegetation. Commando sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) and several of his Special Forces trainees have apparently disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a jungle training exercise. There are two survivors rescued; Dunbar (Brian Van Holt) and Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), but neither is providing any convincing answers to the mystery. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Tom Hardy (John Travolta) is recruited to assist the military base investigator Lt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) in unravelling the mystery. Hardy has personal issues of his own and the relationship with Osborne is initially strained. Hardy’s methods however seem to bear fruit and the two form an uneasy truce to eventually unravel the truth. Or do they?

     Director John McTiernan's movie Basic has a perfectly understandable beginning and end but unfortunately a mess of a middle. There are so many red-herrings, twists, refashioning of stories and flashbacks that this reviewer had no idea what was real and what was fabrication. In a skilfully written thriller confusion is a legitimate tool, however I found it all too implausible to be satisfactory. What’s worse is that the tension doesn't really build to a climax and so as the movie ends you wonder whether it was all worth it.

     Fortunately the always dependable Nielsen adds some realism to the acting with Travolta not as convincing as the renegade and possibly corrupt DEA agent. Jackson does with aplomb his usual hard-assed, foul mouthed, tough guy shtick which should be patented. The other main characters just go through the motions being neither outstanding nor offending in the acting stakes. The real weakness of this movie is the screenplay which is as thick, murky and impenetrable as the Panama jungle in a hurricane. What might have appeared as multi-layered and clever on paper unfortunately just didn't translate successfully to the screen.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This Blu-ray film is presented in 1080i in its cinematic 2.35:1 aspect. With much of the photography set in the jungle during a hurricane there is not a lot of vibrant colour and it was often difficult making out what was happening. In retrospect this is probably intentional as most of the plot was similarly vague. Indoor scenes were also usually dimly shot although they were significantly brighter than the jungle scenes. Picture sharpness was similarly soft however it was sharp enough given the subject matter. The only real flaws I noticed was telecine wobble in the opening credits. Overall the video quality was a bit below par for Blu-ray although not overly so.

     The picture detail was a little soft for Blu-ray. There were no film artefacts.

     This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is encoded at a variable rate of around 3,000 Kb/s with an English subtitle option available. The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track encoded at around 2,200 Kb/s was selected periodically to compare with the default. Surround effects were used very well with the hurricane winds and thunder claps giving the rear channels a good work out. LFE was also used extensively with the subwoofer very active during storm and action scenes. Voice synchronisation was problem free with the only real complaint being that voices were often drowned out in the storm scenes with surround and subwoofer activity taking precedence over dialogue. Subtitles appeared to match the spoken dialogue accurately. The music score by Klaus Badelt complements the movie well.

     The front sound stage was very good with main voices coming from the centre channel and effects from the left and right and surround speakers. Surround channel use was extensive and used appropriately. The subwoofer use was used well to complement the explosions and storm effects.

     This audio track is not reference quality but is very good. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital TrueHD offerings are comparable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    Only one option - play.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I could not find an alternative release to this version so either get this or wait for an overseas release which may contain extras.

Summary

     Basic might appeal to mystery thriller sleuths who like to rewind the narrative and find the clues. I however didn't find the plot or acting compelling enough to bother retracing the story. A director's narrative (as found on the DVD version) might have shed light on what the director and writer were thinking because to me it all looked a bit thrown together with an ultimately contrived ending. Given the dearth of extras I can't really recommend this movie however I'm sure many would enjoy the twists and turns.

     The audio quality is very good. The video quality is good.

     Extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mike B (read my bio)
Monday, August 30, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationDenon AVR-3808 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub

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