The General's Daughter (film)
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The General's Daughter is a 1999 American mystery crime film directed by Simon West and starring John Travolta. The plot concerns the mysterious death of the daughter of a prominent Army general. The film is based on the 1992 novel by the same name by Nelson DeMille.
|The General's Daughter|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Simon West|
|Produced by||Mace Neufeld|
|Written by||Christopher Bertolini|
|Based on||The General's Daughter|
by Nelson DeMille
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Cinematography||Peter Menzies Jr.|
|Edited by||Glen Scantlebury|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$149.7 million|
Vietnam War veteran Paul Brenner is in Georgia, masquerading as First Sergeant Frank White, to broker an illegal arms trade with a self-proclaimed freedom fighter. Brenner is actually an undercover agent of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command.
While on a local army base, Brenner's car gets a flat tire and a young officer helps him change it. The officer is Elisabeth Campbell, the commanding general's daughter and a captain in psychological operations. The next evening, she is found murdered. The base provost marshal, Colonel Kent, secures the crime scene. Brenner and Sara Sunhill, a rape specialist, are brought in to investigate.
Brenner and Sunhill search Elisabeth's home and find a room containing video and BDSM equipment. Brenner is attacked by an intruder who removes the video tapes. Brenner questions Elisabeth's superior officer, Colonel Moore. Moore is evasive and gives a false alibi, which leads Brenner to arrest him on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Sunhill is knocked to the ground by four men who try to intimidate her and Brenner. Sunhill notices that the main assailant is wearing a silver claddagh ring. It turns out to be a Captain Elby. At gunpoint, he confesses that Elisabeth was sexually promiscuous with the men on the base as part of an extensive "psychological warfare" campaign against her father.
Back at the jail, Colonel Kent releases Moore, confining him to quarters at his home on-base. When Brenner, Sunhill, and Kent return to Moore's home, they find him dead with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. But Brenner is not convinced that Moore's death was suicide. General Campbell's adjutant, Colonel Fowler, attempts to close the investigation, stating that Moore killed himself out of guilt, but Brenner refuses to accept this.
Brenner and Sunhill visit Colonel Slesinger, the Academy's psychiatrist, who explains that Elisabeth had been brutally gang raped by fellow cadets at West Point, and left to die in an isolated area—staked down in exactly the same manner in which she was found murdered. Elisabeth never knew the names of her assailants, but Sunhill tracks down one of the attackers and engineers a confession. They then arrest the other assailants, all of whom face 20 years imprisonment for their crime.
The agents pay a visit to the general, who corroborates the story. Fearing that the assailants would never be caught, Campbell had acted upon the advice of another general and decided to cover up the incident since such a scandal could have destroyed the United States Military Academy. This denial of justice severely traumatized Elisabeth, causing her to partake in various violent sexual activities and wage a years-long war of psychological revenge against her father. Campbell also reveals that he encountered his daughter the night of her murder and that, with the aid of Moore, she staged the reenactment of her West Point rape in an attempt to force him to face what he did. But Campbell was unmoved, and left her tied to the stakes.
Realizing that Kent is the only suspect left, Brenner decides to question him. He calls Sunhill but learns that she was returning to the murder scene with Kent, who also wants to see Brenner. Brenner arrives and confronts Kent, who admits that he killed Elisabeth after she rejected him and threatened to tell his family about the affair. He also admits he murdered Moore and made it appear as suicide in an attempt to get away with it. Kent commits suicide by deliberately stepping on an anti-personnel mine.
As General Campbell prepares to get on the plane to accompany Elisabeth's body to the funeral, he is confronted by Brenner, who lays the burden of his daughter's death on the general. Brenner tells Campbell that his betrayal of Elisabeth was what had killed her and that Kent had just put her out of her misery. Though General Campbell threatens Brenner to keep silent or else be run out of the Army, Brenner has him court-martialed for conspiracy to conceal a crime, thus ruining the general's public and military careers.
- John Travolta as Paul Brenner
- Madeleine Stowe as Sarah Sunhill
- James Cromwell as General Campbell
- Timothy Hutton as Colonel Kent
- Leslie Stefanson as Elisabeth Campbell
- Daniel von Bargen as Chief Yardley
- Clarence Williams III as Colonel Fowler
- James Woods as Colonel Moore
- Mark Boone Jr. as Elkins
- John Beasley as Colonel Slesinger
- Boyd Kestner as Captain Elby
- Brad Beyer as Bransford
- John Benjamin Hickey as Captain Goodson
The General's Daughter was directed by Simon West and produced by Mace Neufeld. It was an adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name, written by Nelson DeMille and published in 1992. William Goldman did some work on the script. Michael Douglas was originally attached to star.
Much of the film was filmed in various locations in and around Savannah, Georgia.
A love scene between Travolta and Stowe was cut from the final film.
Two key changes were made after test screenings: Travolta's character made a stronger moral stand at the end, and it became clearer at the beginning that he was a military investigator working undercover.
With a $95 million budget, the film grossed almost $103 million at the domestical box office and $150 million worldwide.
The film had generally negative reviews with 22% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 89 reviews with an average rating of 4.3/10. The consensus is "Contrived performances and over-the-top sequences offer little real drama". On Metacritic the film has a score of 47% based on reviews from 24 critics. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert gave the film a mixed 2.5 stars out a possible 4, describing The General's Daughter as well-made and with credible performances, but marred by a death scene that was "so unnecessarily graphic and gruesome that by the end I felt sort of unclean."
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