SOMEWHERE in Basic there's a good movie struggling to break out. But it's buried in dense plotting, a not-as-smart-as-it-thinks script, and excess posturing from its star.

A group of Special Forces trainees, under the tutelage of the loathed and feared Sgt Nathan West (Jackson), has gone missing in the middle of a hurricane during a routine exercise in the Panamanian jungle.

Two survivors, one badly injured, are located and taken back to their base, where head of military police Capt Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) begins her interrogation.

Much to her disapproval, the top brass bring in ex-Army Ranger turned DEA agent Tom Hardy (Travolta), an experienced interrogator, to assist Osborne.

As far as Osborne is concerned, Hardy's unconventional technique goes against the grain. But gradually they start to get the results they are looking for although they don't like what they uncover, which appears to be a muddled scenario of mayhem, conspiracy and murder.

It's ground that's been well covered before better in A Few Good Men, not as well in Courage Under Fire and the flashback narrative is reasonably effective.

But this is one of those all-is-not-as-it-seems movies. There are twists, there are surprises and the intention is clearly to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and guessing what the final outcome may be, which really isn't as startling as director John McTiernan is hoping.

The result is a bit of a muddle and rather than gasping in surprise, viewers will probably shrug their shoulders in a "So what?" gesture come The Big Twist.

Travolta overdoes the cocky, confident, wisecracking interrogator bit, but otherwise fits the part well.

But don't fall for the hype about Basic being the first screen get together of Travolta and Jackson since their memorable partnership in Pulp Fiction the stars share less than five minutes of screen time.

Rating: 5 out of 10

by Stephen Webb