69 painful mistakes in 'Basic' — the worst Army movie ever
Action movies featuring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta were supposed to be safe bets, but most viewers were disappointed by ‘Basic.’ Military viewers yelled themselves hoarse when they first saw Jackson’s cape in the movie. The flick follows the investigation into the deaths of multiple Rangers during training in the jungles of Panama.
While many soldiers may hate on “The Hurt Locker,” we’re just going to go ahead and call “Basic” the worst Army movie ever. Yes, ever.
Admin note: Parts of the movie are witnesses giving false testimony, but we still counted the technical errors we saw. Even in fantasyland you should get the details right.
1. (2:15) The movie takes place as Fort Clayton is being transferred over to the Panamanian government which happened in 1999. The Jungle School was at Fort Sherman, not Fort Clayton where the movie is set.
2. (2:20) West is wearing a patch on the front of his sweater where it is visible under his cape. Soldier uniforms don’t include chest patches, that sweater, or a cape.
3. (2:30) Master Sgt. West is giving a speech about Ranger standards to a bunch of Rangers about to go into combat exercises in the jungle. Despite this being tactical training and West being obsessed with standards, one of the Rangers is wearing a shiny watch, one is wearing a t-shirt with nothing over it, and people are wearing six different pieces of headgear, because screw uniform standards. Also, the red and black berets aren’t worn by the Army without flashes and crests.
4. (2:55) It’s revealed to be a live-fire exercise at night in the jungles of Panama during a hurricane and the entirety of the safety brief is, “Keep your weapon on safe so as not to shoot off your nonexistent d-cks.” Live-fire exercises are rarely done in hurricanes and the the method of signaling would not have been white phosphorus grenades since those would be nearly impossible for West to see from the jungle floor. Also, there would have been a real safety brief.
5. (4:00) A different helicopter comes to pick up the Rangers. For some reason, the Rangers are getting picked up by U.S. pilots in a Eurocopter Ec-120 (typically operated by Spanish and Chinese militaries, never by the U.S.). In theory, the helicopter is there to pick up all seven Rangers. The Ec-120 only sits four people in addition to the pilot and co-pilot.
6. (4:16) Col. Styles, later revealed to be the base commander, is on the helicopter looking for the Rangers. He would typically be, you know, commanding the search while allowing a specially trained crew to look for the Rangers. Also, the actual base commander at Fort Clayton from 1986 to its closing in 1999 was the U.S. Army South Commander, a two-star general.
7. (5:10) Col. Styles, shocked, asks the pilot whether the Rangers are shooting live rounds. Live rounds shouldn’t be shocking since the Rangers were on a live-fire exercise.
8. (5:15) “Dunbar” is firing, on full-auto, an M16 into the jungle when he has an M203 slung underneath the weapon and his vision is obscured by rain. The idea that he hit anything is laughable.
9. (6:25) Osborne is wearing no ribbons on her dress uniform.
10. (6:30) Somehow, the Ranger colonel never became jumpmaster qualified. No wonder they won’t make him a general. Also, his highest award is the Army Commendation Medal. How did he ever make colonel?
11. (6:35) Styles says that, if they don’t get to the bottom of this, they’ll have people from Washington crawling all over them like ants. Considering the fact that four Rangers are missing, one is dead, and one is injured, it’s pretty likely that Washington will be all over you anyway.
12. (7:15) Questioning is being done personally by the base commander and the provost marshall. Where is everyone else? Maybe the Criminal Investigation Division and the military police investigators are all at sergeant’s-time-training.
13. (8:40) It’s later revealed that Hardy is in the top-secret Section 8, not in the D.E.A., or at least not in normal D.E.A. And, all his actions in Panama are authorized by the few people who know he’s doing it. So, who is calling him and busting his chops about the bribe he was never actually accused of taking? Why check up on him if his suspension isn’t real?
14. (9:35) It’s revealed that Hardy was an amazing military police investigator and Army Ranger. It’s not exactly impossible, but it’s so rare for MPs to graduate Ranger school that Army public affairs writes press releases when it happens. Even if Hardy graduated Ranger school though, why was an MP assigned to an infantry unit under Styles? Styles would have been leading infantry companies and working in infantry battalions. He’d only meet MPs when he had too much to drink.
15. (9:45) Osborne tells Styles that, if Hardy isn’t Army, then the investigation won’t be official and Styles agrees. An unofficial investigation will make Washington more suspicious, not less. Plus, there’s no way that evidence turned up by a suspended D.E.A. agent not assigned to the base would be admitted into court later. Styles just guaranteed C.I.D. would send legions of agents to Panama.
16. (10:37) Osborne is surprised and grossed out by Hardy dipping. In the Army though, every meeting is adorned by five or six spit bottles on the table.
17. (10:52) Hardy says West was his “black hat.” “Black hat” is refers to airborne school instructors, not Jungle School instructors.
18. (13:00) “Dunbar” was misidentified by his dog tags, a major plot point of the movie. There was no one else who could identify him? No one from the Jungle School could come and tell them they have the wrong name? He wasn’t carrying an I.D. card? Everyone just trusted that the probable murderer was wearing the correct dog tags?
19. (13:35) It’s revealed that the injured Ranger, 2nd Lt. Kendall, is the son of a joint chief. Good luck avoiding a horde of men from Washington.
20. (13:45) Hardy explains to Osborne, the base provost marshall, how interrogation works. And, he’s an investigator known for being good in the room but has a deep-seated aversion to interrogation rooms.
21. (14:15) Osborne points out that Hardy can’t testify at trial and she’ll have to testify instead. Military trials are still trials and the defense will jump on the fact that a shady D.E.A. agent was in the interrogation but disappeared before trial.
22. (15:00) In the 1:15 since Hardy told Osborne to move Dunbar, neither of them have spoken to anyone else or moved Dunbar, yet Dunbar is already in the cafeteria when they arrive. I guess the other MPs heard about Hardy’s hatred of interrogation rooms and just went ahead and moved a dangerous prisoner on their own.
23. (15:11) Armed guard leaves the room without a word once Osborne and Hardy arrive. Good thing Ranger-qualified murderers aren’t dangerous or anything.
BONUS (16:00) Hardy shows off his crotch to Dunbar while talking about baseball. Odd interrogation tactic if not technically an error.
24. (17:31) Hardy says he was stationed in Panama with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Little problem, there never was a Ranger Battalion stationed in Panama. Rangers went there for Jungle School and they were part of the invasion in 1989, but they didn’t stay there. And, again, there are no military police units in the Ranger Regiment.
25. (19:15) Osborne jumps to parade rest for Styles. First, she’s been talking back and being sarcastic to this guy so far. Why do the customs and courtesies now? Second, the proper position would be attention.
26. (20:06) Let’s just get all of Master Sgt. West’s uniform violations in this scene out at once. 1: Nope, those glasses would not be authorized. 2: That collar rank is for Army specialists, four ranks below master sergeant. 3: That damn chest patch is back. 4: West is apparently special forces in addition to Ranger qualified; it’s a shame the Army has used him as an instructor for the past dozen or so years. 5: The patch, while right for Panama, is too far below the Ranger and SF tabs. This guy is starting to look like a stolen valor case.
27. (20:15) It’s “Hooah.” Not “hoo-hah.” “Hoo-hah” is slang for a woman’s genitals.
28. (20:36) Why are none of the students wearing patches? Either they’re in Ranger Regiment and should be wearing scrolls, or they’re coming from other units to the Jungle School and should be wearing their home unit patches, or they’re in 192nd Infantry with West and should be wearing the same patch as him.
29. (20:48) West admonishes “Pike” for surrendering his sidearm. Um, why? Soldiers do give their weapons to their superiors when ordered.
30. (21:15) Just about everyone in this formation is an E-1 who has not been assigned to a unit. So, they’re doing Jungle School ahead of basic training? But apparently after Ranger school? Also, why are none of these “Rangers” wearing Ranger tabs or scrolls?
31. (21:49) Green Hell is a training event in Jungle School, but it’s just an obstacle course. It certainly doesn’t take place in Darien, a completely different province of Panama that’s miles outside of the U.S. controlled canal zone. If Green Hell were that bad though, 20 days of 40 kilometers per day, it would have to be somewhere besides the Canal Zone since the zone is less than 80 kilometers long.
32. (21:54) “Dunbar” says they’re all in the Jungle Leader Course. JLC was six days long and only five of them were training days.
33. (23:00) West accepts the answer of “1,100 meters per second,” for the muzzle velocity of the M16. The M16’s muzzle velocity is actually 948 meters per second.
34. (23:26) We get a good look at Nunez who is regularly referred to as a Ranger. Women are going through Ranger School for the first time now and none have graduated, ever.
35. (25:00) The entire unit has horrible muzzle awareness. Considering the fact that West gives them live ammunition for nearly every exercise, that seems pretty dangerous.
36. (25:30) Prior to 2004, only deployed soldiers wore the U.S. flag and they wore a reversed flag replica (blue field of stars to the front of the soldier’s sleeve). Also, why the cape!?
37. (26:05) “Pike” is getting hemmed up by West, but doesn’t go to parade rest. Every Army private knows the solution to a pissed off sergeant is to go to parade rest and say, “Yes, sergeant,” and, “No sergeant,” as appropriate.
38. (27:25) Apparently, the Rangers now have a code instead of a creed. Also, the code is much shorter.
39. (31:55) Apparently, 2nd Lt. Kendall’s dad, a joint chief of staff, wanted to keep his son’s homosexuality secret. So West, who had never met Kendall before, would have no way of knowing it.
40. (32:55) Kendall tells the investigators that no one could hear anything on the chopper. He doesn’t explain how he heard the entire mission brief on the helicopter.
41. (33:40) The Rangers rappel from the helicopter with their weapons simply slung on their shoulders where they could easily fall off and get lost in the jungle.
42. (34:58) The live-fire training is apparently in the middle of a thick jungle, is done without a safety officer able to oversee the training, and none of the students wear anything to mark themselves to prevent friendly fire. It’s frankly a miracle that the base only had three training accidents per year.
43. (35:00) All of the students apparently have full-auto M16s — even though only two models — neither popular in the Army in the ’90s, had fully automatic settings. Castro, a top student, fires from the hip constantly.
44. (37:40) Rangers find their dead instructor and don’t leave a guard, mark the map, or recover the body.
45. (38:25) In the middle of super tactical training, one of the Rangers decides not to use a red filter on his flashlight.
46. (39:30) Enlisted soldiers tell the officer with a joint chief for a father to shut up.
47. (41:30) “Pike” is wearing a camouflage t-shirt, not an approved uniform item.
48. (41:40) “Pike” is, in this version of the story, an admitted killer. Other Rangers are letting him sit within arm’s reach of a fully automatic weapon. He also only has one guard.
49. (42:46) Ranger gets shot and immediately grabs his weapon. Instead of picking his target, he sprays the inside of the shack with about 60 rounds from a 30-round magazine without bothering to check what he’s shooting.
50. (45:40) “Dunbar” admits to using drugs and Hardy says drugs come with a 20-year sentence in the Army. Actually, they come with military separation unless your chain of command recommends otherwise. There is no minimum sentence for drug use and few offenders serve jail time.
51. (51:45) Finally, someone mentions the radios. “Pike’s” is busted, but what about the rest of them? Why isn’t someone trying to raise West or Fort Clayton on the radio?
52. (52:30) Nunez walks around the tent with her weapon cocked and pointed up. No one protests the weapon safety problem. Also, there’s no need to cock an M9.
53. (53:00) During a high tension moment in the shack, Nunez takes the chance to kiss another Ranger. No wonder Rangers are scared of women being allowed in the school.
54. (53:25) “Dunbar” partially searches one pocket of someone’s pack, can’t find the grenade in that pocket and decides the grenade isn’t in there. Hope he’s never in charge of searching enemy prisoners of war.
55. (54:40) “Pike” exposes the scars from his needle injections. His scars would’ve been visible every time he had to take a shower with the other students.
56. (1:00:25) “Dunbar” was in custody for hours. The military police would have searched him and removed the hypodermic needle that could be used as a weapon.
57. (1:02:05) Osborne smacks a suspect/her former lover across the face with a telephone book. Military trials have different rules than civilian ones, but this would still get the case thrown out.
58. (1:02:15) Drug dealing doctor can’t remember Kendall’s name. He targeted and recruited Kendall, the homosexual son of a joint chief, worked with him for months, rigged his regular drug tests, and now can’t remember his name. This drug dealer pays no attention to his illegal enterprise.
59. (1:12:15) Osborne says that C.I.D. has arrived to take the doctor to Washington. First, why move him to D.C.? His trial would be easier to organize at larger bases like Fort Bragg or Fort Hood and he should be transported by the unit’s chaser detail, not C.I.D. Also, if C.I.D. is on the base, they should take over the investigation. They are the criminal investigation division.
60. (1:12:30) Osborne and Hardy learn that they have Pike and Dunbar backwards. See, that’s why you can’t use dog tags as a sole form of identification.
61. (1:13:30) Osborne says Army files don’t show weight, but they do. Also, dog tags are not enough to identify a criminal. Check ID cards.
62. (1:14:00) C.I.D. would almost certainly be wearing suits, not uniforms.
63. (1:13:35) Hardy and Osborne wouldn’t race to the plane. They’d call the flight line. Phones and radios are awesome inventions.
64. (1:14:17) Hardy steals an agent’s weapon and fires it in the air. Only two guys draw their weapons in response and no one stops Hardy from pulling Pike off the stairs and shoving him towards the prop. The agent at the top of the stairs actually stays at parade rest the whole time.
65. (1:15:00) So, West decided to confront the druggies in his unit and he decided he’d pick that fight in a remote area while he was severely outnumbered. Great tactics, super Ranger!
66. (1:17:00) The female Ranger runs out of the hut on her own without looking around or bringing her weapon to the ready, something no combat trained soldier would do. West kills her with dual pistols. Soldiers are trained to properly use one pistol because it’s more effective than using two.
67. (1:25:15) Hardy tells Osborne to contact him if she needs him to testify about the shooting. The investigators would actually take his sworn statement right then since he was the only witness to the shooting of a base commander by one of his subordinates.
68. (1:26:00) Osborne is driving a military vehicle to her personal residence and turns off to follow Hardy. She shouldn’t be able to take the vehicle home at night and she really shouldn’t be able to drive it around the isthmus without someone asking what’s going on.
69. (1:31:00) The movie ends on a happy note because the whole squad was in Section 8 and the mission was sanctioned! But, Kendall, the joint chief’s kid, is still dead. That’s going to come up later.