The General's Daughter (film)

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The General's Daughter
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySimon West
Produced byMace Neufeld
Screenplay byChristopher Bertolini
William Goldman
Based onThe General's Daughter
by Nelson DeMille
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byGlen Scantlebury
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 18, 1999 (1999-06-18)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60-95 million[1][2]
Box office$149.7 million[2]

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


While in Georgia, Vietnam War veteran Paul Brenner, a Chief Warrant Officer serving as an undercover agent of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division Command, masquerades as First Sergeant Frank White, to broker an illegal arms trade with a self-proclaimed freedom fighter.

On a local army base, Brenner's Ford LTD Crown Victoria gets a flat tire and Elisabeth Campbell, a captain in psychological operations and the daughter to Lieutenant General Joseph Campbell, the base commanding officer and assists him in changing it. However, the next evening, she is found murdered. The base provost marshal, Colonel Bill Kent, secures the crime scene. Brenner and rape specialist Warant Officer Sara Sunhill are brought in to investigate. It starts out awkwardly between Brenner and Sunhill: they'd been involved in the past; Sunhill was engaged to a major while dating Brenner on the side and appears to enjoy toying with Brenner.

Searching Elisabeth's home, Brenner and Sunhill find a room containing video and BDSM equipment, but an intruder attacks Brenner and removes the videotapes. Brenner questions Elisabeth's superior officer, Colonel Robert Moore, who evasively gives a false alibi, leading Brenner to arrest him on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.

When four men knock Sunhill to the ground, attempting to intimidate her and Brenner, she notices that the main assailant is wearing a silver claddagh ring, and identifies him as Captain Jake Elby. At gunpoint, Elby confesses that Elisabeth was sexually promiscuous with the men on the base as part of an extensive "psychological warfare" campaign against her father.

Back at the jail, Colonel Kent releases Moore, confining him to quarters at his home on-base. When Brenner, Sunhill, and Kent return to Moore's home, they find him dead with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but Brenner doubts that Moore's death was suicide. General Campbell's adjutant, Colonel Fowler, attempts to close the investigation, stating that Moore killed himself out of guilt, but Brenner doubts this.

Brenner and Sunhill visit Colonel Slesinger, the Academy's psychiatrist, who explains that seven years earlier, fellow cadets at West Point had brutally gang-raped Elisabeth and left her to die in an isolated area—staked down in exactly the same manner in which she was found murdered. While not directly cooperative, Slesinger hints at where a key to the file cabinet is kept. He also hints at where a special notation was attached to her file...revealing the name of someone who came forward regarding Elisabeth to Slesinger privately. Elisabeth never identified her assailants, but Sunhill tracks down the cadet who was in the report attached to Elisabeth's file in Slesinger's cabinet at West Point. She tricks him into admitting his presence during Elisabeth's rape by showing him a pair of underwear that she'd purchased only an hour before, but makes the former cadet think they were Elisabeth's. She told him that the attacker's DNA was on it. Feeling trapped but also guilt-ridden (because while he wasn't one of the attackers, Elisabeth was his friend and he didn't help her), he admits witnessing the rape and how the men hated her, since she surpassed them as a cadet. They then arrest the other assailants, all of whom face 20 years imprisonment for their crime.

The agents visit the general, who corroborates the story. Fearing that the assailants would never be caught, Campbell had taken the advice of another general and decided to cover up the incident since such a scandal could have destroyed the United States Military Academy's reputation. He also visited Elisabeth in the hospital and convinced her to do the same. This denial of justice severely traumatized Elisabeth, causing her to partake in various violent sexual activities and wage a war of psychological revenge against her father. Campbell also reveals that he encountered his daughter the night of her murder and that, with Moore's help, she staged the reenactment of her West Point rape to attempt to force him to face what he did, but Campbell was unmoved and left her 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, having been obsessively in love with her, and was even ready to leave his wife and children to be with her forever, but when she spat in his face, he snapped and then strangled her to death. After also admitting he murdered Moore and made it appear as suicide in an attempt to evade punishment, Kent then commits suicide by deliberately stepping on an anti-personnel mine.

As General Campbell prepares to get on the plane to accompany Elisabeth's body to the funeral, Brenner confronts him and holds him responsible for her death, explaining that his betrayal of Elisabeth was what had killed her and that Kent had just put her out of her misery. Though General Campbell threatens Brenner to keep silent or else be run out of the Army, Brenner has him court-martialed for conspiracy to conceal a crime, thus ruining the general's public and military careers.



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. William Goldman did some work on the script. Michael Douglas was originally attached to star.[3]

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

A love scene between Travolta and Stowe was cut from the final film.[4]

Two key changes were made after test screenings: Travolta's character made a stronger moral stand at the end, and it became clearer at the beginning that he was a military investigator working undercover.[5]


Box office[edit]

Against an estimated budget from $60 to $95 million,[1][2] the film grossed almost $103 million at the domestic box office and $150 million worldwide.[2]

Critical response[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".[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 47% based on reviews from 24 critics.[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[8]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 out 4, describing The General's Daughter as well-made and with credible performances, but marred by a death scene that was "so unnecessarily graphic and gruesome that by the end I felt sort of unclean."[9]


  1. ^ a b "The General's Daughter (1999) - Financial Information". The Numbers (website). Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  2. ^ a b c d "The General's Daughter". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  3. ^ Smith, Liz (11 December 1997). "If It's Uma - OK!". Newsday. p. A15. ProQuest 279061104.
  4. ^ Giammarco, David (5 June 1999). "From the deep south to outer space: John Travolta plays a military sleuth in his new film The General's Daughter. In next year's Battlefield Earth, he's a 10-foot-tall alien invader". National Post. p. 4. ProQuest 329519951.
  5. ^ Portman, Jamie (11 June 1999). "Movie thriller may upset U.S. military". North Bay Nugget. p. C10. ProQuest 352486546.
  6. ^ "The General's Daughter". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  7. ^ "The General's Daughter". Metacritic.
  8. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (1999). "The General's Daughter". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 14, 2017.

External links[edit]