What You Need To Know:
Moderate moral worldview of lies rebuked, truth upheld, restitution championed, family over career upheld, & justice served with a suggestion that some U.S. Military institutions are corrupted; 38 obscenities & 9 profanities; sexual violence including strong rape scene, man hit in head by shovel, threats with knives, threats with guns, man killed by spinning propeller prop, woman burns man with hot coffee, & woman choked to death; perverse sex implied & briefly depicted on grainy video tape, & images of sexual toys; rear male nudity, upper male nudity & image of full female nude corpse observed from afar; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, denying treatment to victimized woman & mildly suggested homosexual character.
Echoes of the past reverberate in John Travolta’s newest movie, THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER. One can almost hear actor James Cromwell as Lt. Gen. “Fighting Joe” Campbell tell Warrant Officer Paul Brenner (Travolta), “You can’t handle the truth!” THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER is this year’s A FEW GOOD MEN. A terrible crime has been committed within the walls of a Georgia military base, shaking political campaigns and undermining the integrity of the U.S. Armed Services
Paul Brenner has just busted an illegal arms sale and is going to his base to give his report. On the way, he gets a flat tire, and a beautiful 20-something captain, Elizabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), comes to the rescue. Brenner is immediately smitten. Moments later, he finds out that this woman is the daughter of retiring General “Fighting Joe” Campbell, a man with his eyes on the vice-presidency.
Certainly, the men who know Elizabeth are shocked when they discover her naked body the next day chained to the ground in a rape position – right on the military base. The General commands Brenner to find out who did it within 36 hours because, after that, the case is removed from military jurisdiction. Furthermore, the news media will certainly run sensational stories on it.
Brenner is partnered with a rape expert, Warrant Officer Sara Sunhill, played by Madeleine Stowe. They quickly amass shocking information: Elizabeth had a secret kinky sex room in her house, she had many lovers, and one of them, Colonel Moore (James Woods), seems a little too smarmy to be completely innocent.
Slowly, it is revealed that a previous rape took place seven years previously that utterly ruined the self-esteem of the victim, because of how it was treated. Now, Brenner must implicate men he thought had integrity, men who put career ahead of family, men who are undermining U.S. Institutions by reckless behavior.
While the photography, costuming, art direction, and powerful acting shine in THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER, this movie suffers from inconsistent writing. Some scenes are downright amateurish, while others are brilliantly written and executed, particularly the confrontations with Brenner and Moore. Cromwell doesn’t stray too far from his role as rotten police chief in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Travolta gets to use his Bill Clinton voice from PRIMARY COLORS again, in the first 15 minutes of this movie. Woods, likewise, shines in a small role, perhaps the best written character here. A fine acting talent, Timothy Hutton, merely has a few throwaway lines, however. Finally, the brutality of the rape scene is rather stomach churning. Hence, some moviegoers may wonder why Leslie Stefanson ever agreed to go through that experience, even as an actress.
THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER offers many lessons and questions. How safe are our co-ed military bases? Are women in combat a help or a hindrance? Can we count on our highest military officials to always stand for truth and justice? Many of these questions seem to denigrate our military and, hence, could be construed as anti-military. However, the overarching themes in the movie aren’t anti-military, but anti-crime, anti-sin, anti-abuse of power. THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER champions family over career, treatment over mistreatment or neglect, and true love over lust and perversion.
Coming out of the screening, public reaction was mixed. Many did not like the brutality shown on screen. Some couldn’t get past some of the poorly written scenes. Yet, many women, it seemed, liked the movie. Perhaps not only because it had the charismatic Travolta, but because it gave validation to the struggles of women, and the potential risks of operating in a “man’s world.”
THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER doesn’t even come close to the politically correct GI JANE. Unlike that movie, it does not create massive stereotypes about military men and the women who want to join them. Filmed in the vein of mainly “conservative” summer political thrillers like A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, this movie upholds patriotism while at the same time questioning the character of those who defend it.