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The General's Daughter is a 1999 film starring John Travolta. The plot concerns the mysterious death of the daughter of a prominent general. The movie is based on the novel by the same name written in 1992 by Nelson DeMille, and was directed by Simon West. The film was a box office success grossing $22 million in its opening weekend and $102 million in its total domestic run.

Topics of interest include the integrity of junior officers in bringing justice against senior ones at great odds and at personal peril. There is also interesting background material regarding the militia movement, "Freedom Fighters", and the prospect of military use of urban and psychological warfare tactics.

The plot of the movie is significantly different from that of the novel although the outcome is the same. For instance, in the novel Brenner never meets Elizabeth Campbell. The first time he sees her is at the murder scene.


Chief Warrant Officer Four Paul Brenner, a Vietnam Veteran of the 196th LIB, (John Travolta) is in Georgia masquerading as First Sergeant Frank White at a local army base, to broker an illegal arms trade with a self-proclaimed freedom fighter. While on the base, his car gets a flat tire. Without a lug wrench, a pretty young officer arrives and helps him change the spare. The officer is Captain Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), the base commanding general's daughter and army captain in psychological operations. The next evening, she is found murdered. Brenner and another warrant officer, Sara Sunhill (Madeleine Stowe) are brought in to investigate, as both are part of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. They find Captain Campbell's nude body staked down with tent poles, strangled, and presumably raped.

They search Elisabeth's home off base and find it typical of a career Army officer, with one exception: through a false door in the basement, they find what appears to be a sexual dungeon of sorts, with handcuffs, harnesses, and a camera connected to a VCR. Sunhill goes to their car to make a call from her cell phone, and while Brenner gathers the tapes, he is attacked by a masked figure armed with a steel snow shovel. The culprit manages to disorient Brenner long enough to steal the videotapes. Brenner questions Elisabeth's close confidante, Colonel Robert Moore (James Woods), who also works in psy ops. Though cordial and somewhat cooperative, Moore is evasive when questioned, and gives an alibi of being in bed asleep at the time of the murder. However, this proves false when Moore's fingerprints are found on Elisabeth's dog tags that were found in a plastic trash bag several yards from her body, along with her clothing. Brenner arrests Moore on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and takes him to jail.

Moore is later released by the officer in charge of the jail and restricted to house arrest. Brenner, Sunhill, and base provost marshal, Colonel William Kent (Timothy Hutton), return to Moore's home and find Moore dead on his couch with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his forehead.

The General's adjutant, Colonel George Fowler (Clarence Williams III), attempts to close the investigation at the crime scene, stating that Moore killed himself out of guilt because he killed Elisabeth. Brenner states he intends to keep the case open. Further cover-ups are revealed, and it's later learned that Elisabeth was sexually promiscuous with virtually all the officers that made up her father's staff. It's also revealed that Elisabeth was an honor student at West Pointmarker until her sophomore year, and barely managed to graduate. Brenner and Sunhill visit Colonel Dr. Donald Slesinger (John Beasley), the academy's psychiatrist, who explains that Captain Campbell had been gang raped by fellow trainees during a training exercise while a cadet at West Point. She was separated from her group and was raped many times, and Elisabeth never knew the names of her assailants. Slesinger, however, knows the name of one of them.

The agents pay a visit to the general, who corroborates the story. Fearing that the assailants would never be caught, Campbell acted upon the advice of another general and decided to cover up the incident, as such a scandal could destroy the academy and his own ambitions to become Vice President of the United States. This denial of justice psychologically damages Elisabeth, causing her to partake in various violent sexual activities.

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 his role in the killing, and then commits suicide with an anti-personel mine.

Parallel to these events, Brenner and Sunhill manage to invalidate Campbell's reasons for the cover up by swiftly bringing his daughter's assailants to justice (the charges they face guarantee a minimum of twenty years in prison). As Campbell prepares to get on the plane to accompany Elizabeth's body to the funeral, he is confronted by Brenner. Brenner lays the burden of the death of his daughter on the general, stating that his betrayal of her was what killed her and that he will be court-martialled for conspiracy to conceal a crime.

As the general steps toward the plane, one is given to see that it is his end, as well as his daughter's, that he is approaching. The film ends with a montage of Elizabeth's happy childhood and Brenner and Sunhill departing in opposite directions and an admiring glance by Sunhill at the departing Brenner.



The film was directed by Simon West who also directed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and When a Stranger Calls (2006). The movie was produced by Mace Neufeld. This movie was an adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name, written by Nelson DeMille and published in 1992. The movie gathered 22 million dollars its opening weekend in the box office, but sales tailed off considerably after the initial buzz wore off.


The film had generally negative reviews with 22% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 19 out of 86 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 4.3/10. The general consensus is "Contrived performances and over-the-top sequences offer little real drama".


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