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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Rattling the Cages

Basic (2003) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Canal Zone, Panama. Clayton Base commander Col. Bill Styles (Tim Daly) is under pressure to complete an investigation of a botched jungle training exercise before it's taken over by his superiors in Washington. His career is in jeopardy as the U.S. is pulling out of the Canal Zone in four months and the army is slated for down­sizing. Of the seven men who went out, four are unaccounted for, one is dead, one is wounded & under sedation, and one isn't talking, at least not to their Provost Marshal Capt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen.) He won't speak to any­one except a fellow Ranger from off post.

getting readyCol. Styles calls on a friend with consummate interrogation skills, former Ranger Tom Hardy (John Travolta) who is now working locally for the DEA. Tom is getting ready to go party at the (Nov. 2) Day of the Dead carnival, but he accom­modates his buddy instead. He soon has both men talking, although they contradict each other big time. When he gets one of them to implicate the other in murdering their hated drill sergeant, he figures he's done his part and should get back to the festival. The base commander, how­ever, wants him to extract a confession from the other man—it ain't gonna happen. Inexperienced Capt. Osborne, wanting to make her military family proud of her, works tire­lessly on tying up loose ends, following a learning curve that brings the audience right along with her.


passing a noteThe Ranger in the hot seat has scrawled a note on a piece of paper, requesting a different inter­rogator, a note the audience gets a quick glance at. In the bottom corner is an enigmatic number eight. We have no idea what it means except its writer seems to be a man of few words, and it may have motivated Col. Styles who is in the know to accom­modate the “unorthodox” request. We'll find out when and if Capt. Osborne ever does.

That said, I'm giving nothing away by pegging the biblical archetype as a rag­tag group of eight people mentioned by the apostle Peter, when God (2Peter 2:5) “spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” This number derives from, (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” (Gen. 7:7) “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.” Four couples make eight. Elementary, my dear Watson.

During the jungle training exercise, the black hat leader Master Sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) asks a struggling cadet a challenging (trick) question requiring him to know how many animals of each kind Moses [sic.] took with him into the ark. It's a no-brainer that Noah took them in two by two. He seems to be into paired arrangements that way.

For getting the answer wrong, the soaked Ranger—it rains a lot in the jungle—had to climb the escarpment all over again, and Sgt. West didn't care if it took him “forty days and forty nights.” That number reflects Noah's experience, (Gen. 7:12-13) “And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the self­same day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark.” Noah, or the writer of Genesis, liked to think in pairs. Four couples instead of eight individuals and not forty calendar days but forty dyads of days and nights.

After the ark was landed, it eventually became time for Noah to bless the lines of his sons. But he had three sons, three lines, an uneven number. (Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth over­spread.” How is he going to arrange them for paired blessings? The answer is Shem will be paired with Japheth, and Ham will get paired with his youngest son Canaan who of course inherits in the same line.

SantaAt an early point in the movie Tom chides Jules for going off on tangents. He jokingly tells her that if their suspect mentions Santa Claus, she'll want to investi­gate “the flying reindeer angle.” Ha, ha. For our purposes, though, we want to look at the archetype within an archetype. We start with Santa provisioning his sleigh with gifts manufactured by elves at the North Pole. Let's compare Santa's sleigh with Noah's ark. Researcher Mark DeWayne Combs working from Genesis and ancient sources tells us, “we can reasonably propose accurate proportions of the ark to be 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet in height” (27.) That would dwarf the people working on it making them look like elves in size. Further­more, “Christ him­self referenced the flood (Matthew 24:36-39) … that those out­side of Noah's immediate family ‘knew not until the flood came and took them all away.’ … This brings a detail that would impact the choice of location — the absolute necessity of isolation” (Combs 52). In our modern Santa myth, the elves' construction takes place at the supremely isolated North Pole.

Santa's sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer harnessed in pairs. Noah's ark was filled with pairs of exotic animals. (Gen. 7:17) “And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth.” Santa's sleigh also flies up above the earth. The ark landed on (Gen. 8:5) “the tops of the mountains”, the roof of the world. The sleigh lands on the rooftops, too.

hearthNext, Santa comes down the chimney to take care of the families on his route. Noah himself collapsed in a drunken heap to deal with the families in turn. At this point he's to bless all three children and the grand­kids, and so cover all the children on earth, not violating any laws of physics.

Here's what happened. (Gen. 9:20-23) “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the naked­ness of his father, and told his two brethren with­out. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went back­ward, and covered the naked­ness of their father; and their faces were back­ward, and they saw not their father's naked­ness.” The song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” tells us, “He's making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice.” Ham was naughty while his two brothers were nice.

Noah sorts out his gifts according to his naughty and nice lists. (Gen. 9:24-27) “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son [Ham] had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Shem and his brother Japheth were a nice pair as were Ham and his son Canaan a naughty pair. The blessings come down through the generations by means of the Christmas spirit or what­ever, and so do the warnings at least. Canaan in his status represents Ham's servile line to his two brothers, “and Canaan shall be his servant.”

More germane to modern times is perhaps Ham's lineage through Cush. Cush was also a son of Ham (Gen. 10:6), settling in Africa. Cush is Hebrew meaning black. Researcher Bodie Hodge confirms that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62).

Ranger training is so hard that it's not a stretch to compare it to slavery. In our slave days it was worse the farther south one went, the roughest being in Mississippi. That's where the expression ‘being sold down the river’ comes from; it was a threatened form of punishment to misbehaving Negro slaves. Black Sgt. West hailed from Biloxi, Miss. where back in the day a Negro could be lynched on a whim. In this movie he takes on the role of a hated slave master, to the point of choking a black recruit. The recounted jungle exercise contains its share of racial tension: “Shut up, you dumb eff-ing nigger!” ¶“You eff-ing white-trash mother­eff-er!” And in the shower Tom sings an old slave strain, “Nobody knows the trouble I've seen./ Nobody knows but Jesus.”

Production Values

” (2003) was directed by John McTiernan. It was written by James Vander­bilt. It stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Connie Nielsen. The main characters capitalize well on the material they're given. The oppressive jungle is like an additional character. It was shot during the rainy season.

MPAA rated it R for violence and language. Klaus Badelt enhanced the ambience with his musical score. The mystery writer did not short us on dead ends.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is one sly little film. It's a military mystery rather than an action extrava­ganza. It's sort of like a base­ball game where the players stand around looking at each other, punctuated by explosive plays. An inexperienced detective sets the pace. Good luck trying to second guess her.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print. Software.

Combs, Mark DeWayne. End the Beginning. USA: Splinter in the Mind's Eye Pub., 2014. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.