The disappearance of a military leader and the death of four of his men leads two investigators to wade through a morass of deceptions and half-truths in search of the facts in this thriller. Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) is the leader of an elite team of U.S. Army Special Forces operatives known as the Army Rangers; West is known as a highly effective officer, but one with a short temper and aggressive attitude who is not well liked by his soldiers. During a seemingly routine training exercise in Panama, a hurricane sweeps in, and four of West's six men are dead, while West himself seems to have vanished. Eager to get the facts behind what happened, Col. Bill Styles (Tim Daly) assigns Capt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) to investigate. However, Osborne is having a hard time getting the two survivors to talk, so Styles brings in Tom Hardy (John Travolta), a former Army Ranger who served under West and became a first-class interrogator; Hardy later became a DEA agent, but left law enforcement after allegations of corruption. Hardy interviews Dunbar (Brian Van Holt), who claims that the four soldiers had been murdered, and West was killed in retaliation. Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), the other survivor (whose father is a powerful officer) has a very different story of how the five men turned up dead, and it's up to Hardy and Osborne to determine who is telling the truth -- or if anyone is saying exactly what happened. Basic marked the first time John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson appeared in the same film together since their breakthrough roles in Pulp Fiction.
by Mark Deming synopsis