Basic is presented in a well done, anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The film remained pretty sharp and detailed throughout, with only the occasional flaw noted to slightly misrepresent the film.
The majority of Basic takes place at night and in dimly lot areas and thankfully, Columbia has provided the film with excellent black levels and depth. Grain occasionally intrudes, but the film maintains nice shadow detail and delineation. There were some spots in the film that were a tad soft, but it definitely wasn’t anything to overly concern yourself with as it was non-distracting. Colors were quite pleasing – although non-specific – and the entire picture remained properly balanced and contrasted throughout. Bleeding and smearing definitely weren’t an issue and everything from fleshtones on down remained natural and accurate.
As stated before in my review, the image was a tad soft because of some grain in the print, but it was nothing worthy of alarm and although it was the single biggest flaw in Basic, it definitely didn’t take the film down to sub-par levels. There was some slight edge enhancement and shimmer, but again, they were quick instances that disappeared as quickly as they were noted.
While not the best transfer in Columbia’s stable, Basic manages to remain quite pleasing. Fans of the film should be happy with Columbia’s results.
As impressive as the video is, the audio follows the same game plan as Columbia’s Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer was quite impressive. Impressively enveloping the viewer throughout the film, Basic was a real treat and authored quite well.
From the opening Intermedia scroll to the end of the film – and all points in between - Basic assaulted the viewer with a sonic blast that not many films can. From gunshots to helicopter rotors to an impressively authored thunderstorm, your surrounds are effectively engaged and extremely active during the proper portions of the film. Split surround usage was quite impressive – especially in the front - and discrete effects were noted throughout the film in all of the surround channels.
LFE was quite bombastic during Basic as well and it offered some nice reinforcement for the many effects in the film, as well as Klaus Badelt’s score. There were some very deep and profound moments of cavernous bass and Columbia really did an excellent job of strengthening and supporting the entire soundtrack with the .1 channel. As mentioned before, Klaus Badelt’s score was very full and rich and received reinforcement from all of the surrounds at some point during the film. Dialogue was front, center, and crystal clear throughout.
Columbia has given Basic quite an impressive mix and have also included a French 5.1 track, as well as subtitles in French and English. Well done and an absolute joy to listen to.
Basic, while not loaded down with an immense plethora of extras, had quite a few decent supplements that fans of the film could sit back and enjoy.
The major extra on the Basic DVD is the Audio Commentary by Director John McTiernan. Providing a rather bland dissection of his film, you can’t help but wonder where the Die Hard / Hunt for Red October John McTiernan went … because you really don’t care what the Rollerball / Basic John McTiernan has to say. Between the long stretches of silence and the simple screen narration, McTiernan tries to impress us with how smart he, Travolta, and Jackson were in confusing … I mean, manipulating the audience with their clever little tale. McTiernan discusses various topics in his commentary including casting, story and script changes, location shoots, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and other directorial issues, but ultimately, it all remains rather dry and tasteless. It’s a decent enough listen, but casual fans of the film won’t be missing much by skipping it.
There are two documentaries on Columbia’s DVD with the first being Basic: A Director's Design (22:29), a rather generic behind-the-scenes look at the film that tends to concentrate heavily on the details of the shoot and how the main players saw themselves in the overall scope of the big picture. Decent enough to merit a look, but definitely nothing special.
Next up is Basic Ingredients: A Writer's Perspective (17:17) and here, the emphasis is on … you guessed it … James Vanderbilt, the screenwriter of this confusing mess. He discusses the evolution of the script and the processes he used to bring it to the big screen. He attempts to dissect some of the film for us while explaining his methods of development to us, but ultimately, you find yourself wondering why he simply doesn’t explain the inconsistencies and glossed-over plot points in a script of his own making – namely, Basic.
Finishing off the disc are Filmographies for John McTiernan, James Vanderbilt, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi, and Brian Van Holt, as well as Trailers for other Columbia offerings which include, Basic, Tears of the Sun, Identity, xXx, Formula 51, Bad Boys II (can’t wait to see it!), and S.W.A.T. (really can’t wait to see it!).
Check reality, as well as your brain, at the door and prepare yourself for another bland Travolta “thriller”. Rashomon or The Usual Suspects this ain’t and while Basic does provide a decent “who done it?”, it’s far from a provocative thriller. With excellent audio and above average video, Paramount has provided viewers a great DVD for a sub-standard film and I would only recommend a purchase for hardcore John Travolta/Sam Jackson fans only.