The General’s Daughter

Title: “The General’s Daughter”

Year: 1999

Run Time: 116 mins

Genre:  Crime, Mystery, Drama, Thriller

Cast: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, Leslie Stefanson, James Woods, Clarence Williams III

Director: Simon West (“Laura Croft: Tomb Raider” “Con Air”)

Plot: At any given time there are a host of complicated and bloody wars being played out within the world we exist in. But there are no wars that are more deadly than the wars fought within the confines of our own minds.  A bullet can inflict the type of damage that a person could possibly heal from. The blow from an angry fist produces the kind of trauma that a person’s body will soon forget. But when it comes to a person’s psyche being infiltrated by a psychological time bomb…there is no time in the world that could ever heal that.

As Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War”, Captain Elizabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson) surely exemplified the true meaning of “The Art of Psychological Warfare”. Being haunted by the demon’s of her past, Captain Campbell has concocted a master plan, in her emotionally destroyed mind, that will bring her perpetrator, as well as the man who kidnapped her true innocence, to final justice. But just when she believes that she has conquered the mind of her true enemy, a psychological blow of immense proportions is delivered right back to her, causing her soul and her life to leave this world forever. After her lifeless and heart torn body is accidentally discovered by soldiers conducting an anti-ordinance exercise, Col. William Kent (Timothy Hutton) immediately calls on the expertise of military investigator Paul Brenner (John Travolta) in order to solve her gruesome and senseless murder. Believing he is the only truly qualified person leading this investigation , Brenner is unexpectedly and unwillingly partnered up with the wits of his ex-love interest Warrant Officer Sara Sunhill (Madeleine Stowe), causing the type of friction that only the shifting of two continental selves could create. Putting their differences aside, they both decide to exert and concentrate all of their efforts into solving this truly difficult and mind boggling murder mystery. Being called into the presence of the man who hold’s the duel roles of being both truly honorable and heroic General Joseph Campbell, as well as, the loving father to the newly found murdered Captain Elizabeth Campbell, Brenner and Sunhill both promise to do their best to bring his daughter’s killer to swift justice… but nothing is what it seems to be. They both do not realize that they are about to embark upon a journey that will bring them face to face with a plot of dark deceit and inexplicable betrayal. Along the way, their minds will be pushed to the brink of insanity, as they slowly uncover the black truth of this unthinkable and diabolical crime. No matter how Brenner comes to the conclusion of what holds to be true is of no consequence to the General. The only thing that is, and should only matter to him, is the manor of approach that he is going to take in order to gain the truth upon his investigation. The way the General see’s it, there can only be two ways to deal with this problem…”the wrong way, or the army way”. Just which path Brenner chooses to take is a mystery in it’s own.

First and foremost, the writing done by Nelson DeMile and Christopher Bertolini, for this movie is done so in a manor that exceeds all expectations for being considered brilliant and genius. But just what is it that truly defines this? One, the movie must be written in a way that doesn’t allow the story to ever be predictable or boring in nature. “The General’s Daughter” easily provides these important elements. Once presented with the general facts of the gruesome crime, we the audience are left with the daunting task of figuring out exactly who committed this murder. There are many times within this movie that I felt I figured this mystery out, but looks can be so deceiving. Just then, a new twist was presented which caused my mind to be turned upside down and totally baffled into oblivion. There just wasn’t any way that I could truly predict the movements and the outcomes of everyone involved within this plot. And because of the fact that this film was impossible to predict, there was never a dull moment throughout this movie. Next, the writing must produce a line of complex and mysterious characters that totally enhance the story, at the same time, bringing the story to life. With characters such as, the extremely intelligent and confident Paul Brenner, played opposite by the sexy and mind manipulating Sara Sunhill, the only expected outcome one can have is a movie filled with the extreme emotion, excitement, and fireworks that is worthy enough to fill Manhattan’s Fourth of July sky. Their characters, as well as many supporting characters, are the reason why “The General’s Daughter” was brought from the two-dimensional aspects of the black ink and the white paper, to the three-dimensional domains of the camera and the film it was printed on. Whereas there are many more elements that make up a brilliantly and ingeniously written movie, I feel that these are the two key ingredients that DeMile and Bertolini produce in order for anyone to come to the same conclusion that I have decided upon.

The more obvious element that brings this movie to greatness is the superb performances given by the many great actors that were involved with this film. First off, I want to give recognition to the awesome job that the supporting actor’s gave throughout the entirety of this film. James Woods is an excellent example of this. His character of Col. Robert Moore is one of the most complex and mysterious characters that I have ever seen on film. This is a role that was tailor made for the likes of James Woods. He performed this with the brilliance and excellence of any Academy Award winning actor before him. It’s greatly because of him that this movie reached into the upper echelon’s of movie greatness. Next, and most importantly, was the perfect interaction between both leading actor’s John Travolta and Madeleine Stowe. John Travolta, himself, gave the performance of a lifetime. But I believe that it was the likes of Madeleine Stowe that provided him with the extra kick and the extra dimension that made his performance become a step above of what it normally could of been. As they both shared camera time, I honestly believed that they were an actual former couple that shared a plethora of unresolved problems together. Between their obvious mannerisms, caused in reaction to the presence of the other, or the long glaring looks that they so pleasantly improvised, John Travolta and Madeleine Stowe successfully created characters that neither one of them could do without. As a result, the performances given by the two of them was nothing short of being perfect!

The Obvious: This was a masterpiece of suspense thrilling film work, as made obvious through the multiple award nominations that “The General’s Daughter” received and won that year. ALMA Award nomination: Outstanding actress in a feature film “Madeleine Stowe”; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination: “Favorite Actor” John Travolta, “Favorite Supporting Actor” James Cromwell, “Favorite Supporting Actress” Madeleine Stowe; Image Award nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” Clarence Williams III; ASCAP Award winner for: “Top Box Office Films”; Hollywood Make-up Artist and Hairstylist Guild Award winner for: “Best Contemporary Make-up -Feature” Toni G., Will Huff, Michele Burke, and Michelle Buhler.

The Not So Obvious: This was a movie that was made to bombard you with a series of psychological ploys that were delivered by each and every given character that was viewed on film. If you were suckered into only paying attention to the obvious mind games of Captain Elizabeth Campbell, then you were robbed of the chance to view the true beauty of the deceitful web being woven before you. What made this movie brilliant was the fact of how there were a wave of psychological plans being played out like an intricate dance with one another. Where you may have thought that there was only one story going on, there was actually a multitude of stories that were taking place at the same exact time.

The Final Cut: “The General’s Daughter” is the result of a beautifully and exquisitely written masterpiece. The storyline leaves nothing to chance. It totally changes the way you will view an action thriller ever again. It will push the depth’s of your imagination and resolve to it’s limits. As a result, I can guarantee that any adult who views “The General’s Daughter” will be in for the ride of their life. Besides, you just can’t pass up the chance to view John Travolta providing us with what is becoming his usual masterful performance on the big screen. I just can’t get enough of him! This is a must see!

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