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About The Production

Basic takes place on December 31, 1999 at Fort Clayton, a U.S. army base on the edge of the Panama Canal. The previous day Hurricane Beth had hit the base and the outlying area at full force. At the time, an elite covert operations team led by Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) was in the jungle on what appeared to be a routine training exercise. By the time the storm passes, the sergeant and several of his Rangers are missing. Of the two recruits who are rescued, both tell a different story of what transpired. But it soon becomes clear that this was no ordinary training mission and that a major cover-up is underway.

"I always loved mysteries when I was a kid," says screenwriter and producer James Vanderbilt. "I knew that someday I wanted to write one that had many twists and had the audience guessing up until the last minute."

And he made good on that promise, says producer Mike Medavoy, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures. "When I read the script for Basic, I was captivated," he says. "It is packed with dark, Hitchcockian twists and turns. The story is told by several characters whose versions conflict with one another, which keeps the audience guessing as to what happened that day in the jungle and why. It all leads up to a surprise ending that you never see coming."

Brad Fischer, co-executive producer on Basic and vice-president of production for Phoenix Pictures, who brought the script to Medavoy says "what really sets this story apart is the way it builds on the twists and turns of successful military movies. You think you're getting a typical military thriller like "The General's Daughter" or "A Few Good Men" and then it totally derails you...turns you on your ear. It's incredibly satisfying when, as an audience member, you're outsmarted only to realize that the truth was in front of your eyes throughout the entire journey."

Medavoy's choice of John McTiernan to direct the project was based on the director's adept use of the camera as a narrative presence in his films. It was particularly apt for this story in which incidents are told and retold from differing points of view. "In this kind of story the camera has to be active and comment on what's going on," says McTiernan. "The approach and the angles change depending on whose version of the story we're watching. A soldier who is a dumb innocent in his version becomes the mastermind in another character's retelling of the story. So the narrative style has to subtly shift every time. It's like you're moving deeper and deeper into the jungle, if you will. It all has to accelerate, intensify and play at a higher voltage as you go forward."

For McTiernan, Basic also satisfied all the definitions of a true thriller. "Something potentially horrific happened to a group of people who have completely vanished and you follow a couple of people who are trying to figure it out," he says. "And it just keeps getting more and more dangerous until, eventually, the whole thing turns upside down and nothing that you thought was going on was actually true."

When McTiernan was approached to direct Basic, John Travolta had already been signed to portray the pivotal character of Tom Hardy, an ex-Ranger and DEA agent who has been suspended amidst allegations of taking bribes from a Panamanian d


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