The General's Daughter (film)

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The General's Daughter
The General's Daughter Film poster
Directed by Simon West
Produced by Mace Neufeld
Written by Christopher Bertolini
William Goldman
Nelson DeMille
Based on Novel:
Nelson DeMille
Starring John Travolta
Madeleine Stowe
James Cromwell
Timothy Hutton
Leslie Stefanson
Clarence Williams III
and James Woods
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Peter Menzies Jr.
Edited by Glen Scantlebury
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 18, 1999 (1999-06-18)
Running time
116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$95,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $149,705,852

The General's Daughter is a 1999 crime film directed by Simon West starring John Travolta. The plot concerns the mysterious death of the daughter of a prominent general. The movie is based on the 1992 novel by the same name written by Nelson DeMille.


Chief Warrant Officer Four Paul Brenner (John Travolta), a Vietnam War veteran of the 196th LIB, 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. Brenner is actually an undercover Army CID Agent. Part of his character's disguise is speaking with a strong Southern accent. While on the base, his car gets a flat tire. He is on the side of the road trying to remove the wheel nuts with a small pair of pliers and not having much success when a pretty young officer arrives and helps him change the spare with her cross brace (lug wrench). The officer is Captain Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), the base commanding general's daughter and herself an Army captain in psychological operations. The next day Brenner calls in to see her with a basket full of scented candles and bath soaps as a thank you to her for her help. Both times he is in contact with her, he is keeping up the pretence with the Southern drawl. Elisabeth is, at first, warm to him, but after a few minutes of conversation, she becomes cool and distant, saying she has a lot of work to get through. The next evening, she is found murdered. Brenner and another warrant officer, Sara Sunhill (Madeleine Stowe), who is also a rape specialist, are brought in to investigate, as both are part of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. At the scene, the base Provost Marshal, Colonel William Kent (Timothy Hutton), and several of his military police have secured the area. Captain Campbell's nude body has been staked down with tent pegs, strangled, and presumably raped. Colonel Kent also advises Captain Campbell's father, Lieutenant General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Campbell (James Cromwell), a highly respected and very popular general officer who was Brenner's Commanding Officer in Vietnam, on all military police matters.

Brenner and Sunhill 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; these were found in a plastic trash bag several yards from her corpse, along with her clothing. Brenner arrests Moore on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and impeding a criminal investigation and takes him to jail.

Whilst Brenner is arresting Moore, Sunhill returns to the location Elisabeth's body was found to record more notes. There she is knocked roughly to the ground by 4 men who verbally threaten and give her a message for Brenner. They dash off as quickly as they arrive, but before that Sunhill notices the main assailant wearing a silver claddagh ring. It turns out to be Captain Elby. In order to avoid prosecution he confesses that Elisabeth was sexually promiscuous with virtually all the officers that made up her father's staff to harm her father, something he didn´t mention.

Back at the jail, the officer in charge later releases Moore and places him in house imprisonment. But when Brenner, Sunhill and Kent later return to Moore's home, they find Moore dead on his couch with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his forehead. Brenner doesn´t belief it is suicide.

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, but Brenner refuses. Later it is revealed that Elisabeth was an honor student at the West Point Military Academy 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 while being a cadet at West Point during a large training exercise of around 1000 personnel. She had found herself separated from her group and was jumped by six male cadets, beaten and raped all night, almost to the point of death and left to die in an isolated area—staked down in exactly the same manner in which she was murdered. Luckily, another trainee group, which had gotten lost, had found Elisabeth and rescued her. Elisabeth never knew the names of her assailants, but Sunhill tracks down one of the attackers, staying at Fort Benning and engineers a confession by telling him the advances in DNA technology mean his "gene prints" are traceable. She pretends that the bloodstained underwear she shows the soldier is the genuine article. They then swiftly arrest the other assailants.

The agents then 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 since such a scandal would destroy the Academy, not to mention his own ambitions. This denial of justice severely traumatized Elisabeth, causing her to partake in various violent sexual activities. He also reveals that he did encounter his daughter the night of her murder, and that Elisabeth herself, with the aid of Moore, staged the reenactment of the academy incident in an attempt to force her father to face the truth that he covered up. Unmoved, Campbell instead left his daughter 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 then commits suicide with an anti-personnel mine.

As 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; disgusted, he tells Campbell that his betrayal of Elisabeth was what had really killed her and that Kent had just put her out of her misery. He also invalidates his argument that the rapist were not findable. He then tells Campbell he will be court-martialed for conspiracy to conceal a crime, thus ruining the general's career.

A written epilogue explains that Campbell is indeed court-martialed for the crime and found guilty, disappearing from public life soon after.



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. Much of the film was filmed in various locations in and around Savannah, Georgia.

Deviations from the book[edit]

The plot of the film is significantly different from that of the novel, although the outcome is the same. For instance, in the novel Brenner never meets Elisabeth Campbell. The first time he sees her is at the murder scene. Notably, the first name of the general's daughter was changed from Ann to Elisabeth, and the ending took a slightly different turn.

Box office[edit]

With a $95 million budget, the film grossed almost $103 million at the domestical box office and $150 million worldwide.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

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".[2]


  1. ^ The General's Daughter. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  2. ^ "The General's Daughter". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 

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