Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA/Germany, 2003. Phoenix Pictures, Intermedia Films. Screenplay by James Vanderbilt. Cinematography by Steve Mason. Produced by Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Michael Tadross, James Vanderbilt. Music by Klaus Badelt. Production Design by Dennis Bradford. Costume Design by Kate Harrington. Film Editing by George Folsey Jr..
A former army bigwig and current DEA investigator (John Travolta) arrives on a Panama army base to interrogate a recruit (Brian Van Holt), one of six soldiers who were on a training mission in the jungle with a ruthless leader (Samuel L. Jackson) until four of them turned up dead including Jackson himself. Connie Nielsen plays the base interrogator who works to get answers out of Van Holt, but her lack of expediency leads the base commander (Tim Daly) to bring Travolta and his unorthodox methods on the scene.
The story that Van Holt tells ends up being too different from the one being told by another survivor of the incident (Giovanni Ribisi, whose idea of playing a gay man is to make his voice sound like George Sanders with a cold), leading to a Rashomon-like investigation of the many variables of one situation.
As usual, John McTiernan finds ways to make a film that transcends the trappings of the genre, and here contributes a rich visual style and thrifty pace to a cliched-riddled story. There are far too many predictable plot twists to make the film really exciting, but the few that manage to catch you off guard make for a reasonably memorable time. The acting is terrific and the character interaction is constantly entertaining.