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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Sided
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Croatian
  Extras
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Behind the scenes footage

The General's Daughter

Paramount/Paramount . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The General's Daughter may be described as a murder mystery that takes place on an army base in the American south. Besides the fact that the victim is the general's daughter, the whole incident takes on a seamy flavour that tends to implicate many of the high ranking officers. As the investigation continues, the viewer is brought to events that took place years before the murder. These events would effect the outcome of the case and would effect the lives the people involved.

The film documents the 36 hours after the fact up until the time the investigation passes from the military's Criminal Investigations Division to the FBI. Once it passes outside of military jurisdiction, it becomes public much to the army's distaste. The 112 minutes is a tightly paced affair as the details unravel and the alleged villains are vindicated and the apparently innocent are implicated. The trailer only scratches the surface of the plot which is atypical to the say the least. The film's strongest point is its ability to keep the viewer interested right until the very end.

Travolta plays a swaggering CID sergeant amongst a cast of officers. You've seen this self assured, almost cocky Travolta before however it seems to work here - a inferior ranking enlisted soldier who must bring down commissioned officers. Travolta works well in this role; he uses his inferior ranking in a deferential manner to make his superiors at ease or he can use his 'outsider' status to separate his actions from the 'officers' club' status of the people under investigation. Travolta is troubled by the need to solve the case and to prevent military scandal - in this case impossible to achieve both aims.

Stowe plays his civilian counterpart who is battling something different - Travolta for one who she was personally involved with before and the largely male hierarchy of the army. An attractive female CID investigator is not openly welcomed by the male components of the army especially in a case involving the apparently sexually motivated murder of an army captain. What is worse is that the captain is the daughter of the bases' commanding general ("Babe's" James Cromwell) who has certain presidential hopes. James Woods and Timothy Hutton round out an ensemble cast. Woods is particularly well suited to the role in his face off which Travolta. Woods and the attractive victim (Leslie Stefanson) worked together in the psychological warfare unit. This fact would have a strong bearing on Wood's interactions with Travolta and with the apparently simple sexually motivated murder - it clearly was not that simple and has strong psychological components. That is the irony I saw.

Simon West is a relative newcomer with his biggest coup being 'Con Air'. That film also strong pacing but obviously more of a non-stop action rollercoaster. It is apparent that his strengths are put to better use in 'The General's Daughter'.

  Video
Contract

Quite an excellent debut by Paramount. Anamorphic 2:35.1 with excellent colour rendition and movement.

There are two flaws that are apparent - once is by director's intent, the other is a compressionist fault but not a glaring problem. West decided to bring as much of the American south ambience to the screen as he could. He wants the audience to experience the overbearing heat and humidity of an army base in the south. To do that he used a lot of sodium lighting to produce a fairly weak almost yellowish lighting effect in certain scenes. This results in poor black levels where they tend to meld into a flat matte. Night scenes are especially effected except for the early scenes of night water shots.

The worst affected would be the abundant interior shots in the older style Atlanta architecture favoured by the director. This tends to contrast with the outside shots which are very bright and try to show the strong sunlit days of the American south. When these two connect in some scenes, you see the final problem this disc suffers and that is edge enhancement. It is apparent in a number of scenes to varying degrees of severity. Most are very slight however when the actors move from the bright daylight to the dark interiors shots, you'll see it the most.

  Audio
Contract

The track is a Dolby 5.1 and 384k/s. There is also an Italian and a Spanish 5.1 track which is fundamentally the same except the language has been ADR removed.

This is a dialogue heavy film so the track must be vocally clear for the 112 minutes - and it is. Not a word goes wrong and even when background effects intrude, the dialogue always remains clear. You are always aware that this film is set on an army aviation base due the overhead helicopters often in scene.

This is not an action movie however there are action elements. These scenes are reminiscent of action movies, that is effects heavy with the use of directional gunfire and subwoofer explosions. Those ever present helicopters use directional surrounds.

Carter Burwell does the score. Unlike the director, Burwell has a large portfolio and is extremely experienced. The film is bookended by native southern music of the sort that would have been popular on plantations. West notes in the commentary that they are recordings from the 30's and are an attempt to 'fit' the film to that region. The rest of the film is interspersed with fairly standard film fare. Often there is no score at all to heighten the dialogue.

The music is of quite reasonable fidelity for 384k/s as witnessed by the quite loud rendition of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' during one of the more dramatic sequences. Overall, quite a good track with no apparent flaws and good fidelity.

  Extras
Contract

Someone must teach Paramount the art of animated menus. The menus here use the five pointed General's star motif for background material on the menu and it looks even less impressive than the static shots they had on the original US DVD releases.

The actual extras are quite good although not abundant. There's a short TV quality 'behind the scenes' featurette of the type you've seen before. I did notice that the music from the featurette is a complete lift from Paramount's 'Clear And Present Danger'. It helps to be a student of film scoring.

There are two trailers presented full screen and in stereo. There are four deleted scenes with an alternate ending. These are actually of good quality (ie. anamorphic and of the same post-production stage of the completed film). West explains that the scenes were edited for pacing purposes. These seem to all attempt to strengthen the relationship between Stowe and Travolta hence distracting from the main story. I liked how West explained the motivations behind the excisions rather than just having the studio plop the cut scenes on the disc without any explanation like on other discs.

There's also a full length commentary by West which is of a very high standard. It would be almost required material for budding directors to learn the art of pacing and economy. A hallmark of a good director is the ability to make complex shots seem simple and natural to the audience. West, despite his relative inexperience seems to understand this. There's one scene which has a camera crane move upwards from grass level in a slow pan so that a helicopter can slide underneath the crane and land. This of course requires the pilot to be quite skilled and it not an easy shot. Yet it seems natural to the viewer and would not garner a second thought were it not for the commentary.

This is not a special effects heavy film yet you'd be surprised just how extensive the use of CGI is when you lack military support. He uses CGI in way that the military would call a 'force multiplier'. That is, he uses CGI to create an army from a small team of extras, a handful of Humvees, a few helicopters and a single armoured personnel carrier.

It's very clear why official military support was not forthcoming - the film paints the West Point Military Academy in a very poor light.

  Overall  
Contract

This film is basically a 'whodunit' set in fairly atypical circumstances. In some respects that has limited replay value. The most value will be the first viewing where the ball of string becomes unwound. It would work well as a rental.

There don't seem to be many military based movies of a similar genre. I can only think of 'Casualties Of War' (1989) with Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn which is set in Vietnam and has a similar thread to this film, that is, crimes of conspiracy.

You might try 'Con Air' however it's nothing like this.


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      And I quote...
    "An excellent debut from Paramount..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Projector:
          Panasonic 1024x768 LCD Projector
    • Decoder:
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    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
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    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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