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GENERAL'S DAUGHTER, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Paul Brenner (John Travolta) is a top US Army investigator, assigned to look into the murder of Captain Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), daughter of General Joe Campbell (James Cromwell), a contender for a vice presidential nomination in the upcoming elections. The dead woman’s body is found naked on army training property, bound to stakes in the ground. With the help of Colonel Kent (Timothy Hutton), Paul and his colleague Sarah Sunhill (Madeleine Stowe) investigate, soon unearthing sordid details about the young woman’s life. The suspects range from the General himself, to Colonel Fowler (Clarence Williams III), and Elisabeth's mentor Colonel Moore (James Woods).

"Intelligent, adult entertainment, The General's Daughter is a handsome, big budget Hollywood production that dazzles with star power and an intriguing plot full of twists. Set against a backdrop of army rigour and discipline, we learn about 'the right way, the wrong way, and the army way'. And the army way is what it's all about, canvassing every shade of grey. This tale of ambition, deceit and betrayal is liberally peppered with enough scandal to shock. It's big, bold and stylish with plenty of action, stunts and thrills; the script's structure is tantalizing, with flashback sequences interwoven potently. John Travolta is every inch the star, holding the film together with a seductive performance, rich in complexity. It's a stellar cast all round, but it's James Woods who steals the scenes, his every expression exploding with nuance, his delivery riveting. Leslie Stefanson is compelling as The General's Daughter – she exudes the kind of sexual allure and mystique Greta Scacchi delivered so effectively in Presumed Innocent. There is more to everything than meets the eye; no one and nothing is what it seems. There are enough surprises, twists and red herrings to satisfy the most agile of minds, and along the way the superficial layers of each character is slowly shed. Sydney born cinematographer Peter Menzies' beautiful lensing delivers effective close ups – none more so than a kiss of betrayal, symbolic to the film's very essence. As is the case in many such films, the emotional hit is less than we perhaps would like, but nonetheless is a satisfying experience. Carter Burwell's outstanding music score pulsates the strong heartbeat of regimented army routine with melodic colours and surprises. Meet The General's Daughter – she may mess with your mind, but you'll be glad she did."
Louise Keller

"It’s a fact based, heart and gut wrenching story from American military life, although it has as much to do with human nature as military nature. It’s glossy and good and largely gripping, but the Hollywood treatment tends to rob it of some profound resonances. The upside of that is the star power that delivers performances in extreme close up. Our previous emotional outings with the stars carry most of the weight, though, and much of the dynamic comes from the terrific score, the handsome production design and the marvellous cinematography – in other words the solar plexus is not required for this outing. Travolta does Travolta, of course, and nothing wrong with that, since that’s what stardom is about; fulfil expectations. Stowe is bland, but the fault is in the writing and directing; she doesn’t get a chance. Their backstory relationship is trite and unsatisfying, too. Cromwell’s General is a bit too studied for my liking, but despite these shortcomings, the film (as Hollywood is wont to do) reverberates with emotional potential. I wish Pedro Almodovar had made this."
Andrew L. Urban

"From the first shots of a ham-faced John Travolta talking in a bad Southern accent and sweating like a pig, The General's Daughter exudes a special, rancid, middle-aged vibe. Based on the idea of sex as an ugly secret shared by men and women in authority, it's thinly disguised sado-porn of a kind more often found in airport novels than in the relatively sanitised world of Hollywood cinema. It's especially creepy because Travolta was last seen playing a Bill Clinton clone in Primary Colors, and watching him boyishly amble through this horrific rape/murder saga is like listening to hours of tired dirty jokes with the pornographic staleness of the Starr Report. While the screenplay relishes the sordid clinical detail ('...vaginal, oral, and anal swabs'), our charming hero is never at a loss for a wisecrack. For a big-budget thriller, it's so incredibly trashy it's sometimes entertaining in a loathsome sort of way. Director Simon West pours on the style till every scene looks like an oil slick, drenched in steam and garish red and amber lights; fifteen minutes in, there's a totally irrelevant fight sequence involving a whirring blade, which would be the climax of any ordinary movie. It's no surprise to see James Woods pop up, eternal pin-up boy for nerdy misogyny, doing his fast-talking rat-fink routine (and having a lot of fun with screenwriter William Goldman's contrived dialogue). When the thriller plotline falls apart, there's a last-minute attempt to justify the film as a serious plea for women in the military, which is hilarious considering what's gone before. As a tabloid exposé, the film reveals nothing except the overheated fantasies of sexual violence underlying much of what passes as mainstream, respectable pop culture. Watch it if you dare."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER (M15+)
(US)

CAST: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, Clarence William III

PRODUCERS: Mace Neufeld

DIRECTOR: Simon West

SCRIPT: William Goldman

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Menzies Jr

EDITOR: Glen Scantlebury

MUSIC: Carter Burwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 4, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: May 19, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: CIC







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