Still More fascinating Film Reviews

The General's Daughter

The General's Daughter - John Travolta, Madeline Stowe - Dir: Simon West

In some ways, the psychological thriller is to the Hollywood of the nineties what the horror film was to tinseltown in the eighties: a genre that has proved itself durable enough to maintain the interest of the American public for not just a couple films, but for a decade. The end of horror films became clear when out when most of the fright flicks became parodies of earlier versions of themselves (Friday the 13th part 2, Freddy's Dead) and the approaching nouveau political correctness would no longer tolerate what it saw as misogyny in the films. The end of the psychological thriller may be coming if Hollywood insists on making cliché-ridden drivel such as The General's Daughter. While the new John Travolta film is not part 4 in some murder/mystery quadralogy, it strings together so many elements of recent (and archaic) films it might as well be. One is assaulted while watching the film, with the feeling that "I've seen this before."

To quickly regurgitate the plot for you, this should suffice: Paul Brennan (John Travolta) is a CID officer is brought in to investigate the murder of an attractive, female military officer who just happens to be the daughter of a prominent, politically important general. Also on the case is a rape investigator played by Madeline Stowe who, in a shocking twist, happens to have had an affair with Travolta in the past. The rest of the film is a continuing series of "surprises" (of the incredibly unsurprising variety) and plot meanderings that manage to incorporate hot button issues such gays in the military, S&M and women's place in modern warfare and sterilize them. (Indeed, while the film seems to be making some plea for increasing women's role in the Army, the modern feminism movement would do well to distance themselves from its confusing argument.) By the time the killer is revealed, you're pleading for an escape from the theater.

Not to be entirely jaded about the whole thing, there were at least two elements I liked. I'm a sucker of colorful, manufactured cinematography (The recent Annette Benning film, In Dreams, utilized this very well) and The General's Daughter has plenty to spare. While watching one of the final scenes, you know that there's no way the falling sun could frame Madeline Stowe so spectacularly against the background but don't it sure look nice. Also commendable is the music in the film: eerie re-workings of classic southern spirituals, that bring to mind a combination of Leadbelly and Dead Can Dance. If I can recommend anything here, skip the film, buy the soundtrack (or at least see if you can download it of the net.)

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