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The General's Daughter

When a female U.S. Army captain (Leslie Stefanson) is found murdered on a Georgia post, Army criminal investigators Paul Brenner (John Travolta) and Sara Sunhill (Madeline Stowe) are given the case, which offers more than its share of problems. In addition to the bizarre nature of the crime (the corpse was discovered drawn between four tent-stakes), the victim was also the daughter of renowned Lt. General Joseph Campbell (James Cromwell), who is on the verge of retirement and considering a political career. With the FBI ready to take over the case after the Army's Criminal Investigation Division completes an initial inquiry (which will make the private affair a very public one), Brenner and Sunhill only have 36 hours to cut through several layers of deception, unearthing secrets about the general and his daughter that were meant to stay buried — secrets that only raise the stakes between the detectives and the Army brass. Based on Nelson DeMille's best-selling novel of the same name, The General's Daughter trips over the many obstacles that can present themselves when long-form prose is translated into a brief two-hour movie. While the action moves at an agreeable pace, the plotting tends to be clumsy, and director Simon West (Con Air) is unable to deliver the small, subtle details that normally sustain a good thriller, instead offering his viewers a flashy thrill-ride that, at times, seems out-of-place in what could be a thoughtful film. Furthermore, the entire premise is based on one of the oldest clichés in the book, namely, that virtually everybody in the military is a self-absorbed SOB who is only concerned about protecting himself and his profession's "honor" — a concept used to good effect back in the post-Vietnam '70s but which merely comes across as a trite plotting device nowadays. That said, The General's Daughter ain't all bad. Travolta and Stowe are engaging leading figures who are more than capable of handling this routine potboiler, and the supporting cast is generally excellent, with both James Woods and Timothy Hutton turning in solid performances (Clarence Williams III's zombie-like servitude to Gen. Campbell, on the other hand, strains credulity). This isn't a great film, but it's fun to spin if you'd like some low-key entertainment. Co-written by William Goldman (All The President's Men). Good transfer, widescreen or pan-and-scan, DD 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Surround, commentary with director West, 20-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette, four deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), two trailers.

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