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General's Daughter, The

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
I actually liked director Simon West's first film, the action thriller "Con Air". It certainly wasn't anything that was Oscar-worthy, but it had a visual style that I found interesting, and it certainly kept with the "Michael Bay" style that directors that work with producer Jerry Bruckheimer("Armageddon") are known to have mass quantities of.

John Travolta stars in this film (based on the bestselling novel) as millitary investigator Paul Brenner, who we first meet as he's working undercover, using a very funny Southern accent while trying to catch some nasty arms dealers. He meets Captain Elizabeth Campbell one night while trying to fix a flat tire. Soon though, he finds himself investigating her murder after her body is found on the army base. More is soon revealed as the woman is revealed to be the daughter of the General(James Cromwell). Finding himself with a new partner in his old girlfriend, Sarah Sunderland(Madeline Stowe), the two interview many of the base's occupants, including another suspicious offer (James Woods), and find that there's more to the woman's past than they first thought.

Although not all of the characters are terribly well-developed (especially Stowe's), they generally do a fine job with the roles they're given. Travolta especially gives another very strong and actually, quite smart performance coming after another excellent job in "A Civil Action". Travolta also has some fine battles of conversation versus Wood's character that are some of the movie's highlights.

The movie does an above average job of presenting average material. It's material that's not terribly new or original, but the performances are good, and as I said before, West (along with cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr., who also filmed such movies as "Die Hard 3" and "Hard Rain") is able to build an intensely watchable visual style. Pace is generally good, but sometimes the movie does get a little slow. "The General's Daughter" is one of those films where the performances and direction help to make otherwise so-so material entertaining.


Although this isn't quite the best disc I've seen from Paramount in terms of image quality, it's certainly still a very excellent effort. With the exception of a few small problems, this is a really strong, really beautiful looking transfer. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image contains very strong, bold colors that look excellent on this DVD, and detail is excellent throughout. The image captures the sort of sun-soaked, warm feel of the scenes very well. Flesh tones are natural and accurate with no problems. Contrast is very good as well.

Images remain well defined and pleasingly bright throughout, and even the night scenes or dimly lit scenes in the movie contain a good amount of detail. The only flaw that I noticed with this image was the occasional instance of shimmering, although these instances were not terribly distracting. Aside from a few small flaws, "The General's Daughter" is another example of how Paramount has turned around since earlier this year and has really been doing consistently strong work on each of their DVD efforts.
SOUND Although many scenes in the "General's Daughter" revolve around intense scenes of dialogue, there is also a fine helping of action, and these scenes give the sound mix a chance to do some strong work. Most of the action scenes make effective use of the surrounds and make for a highly enveloping and highly enjoyable experience. Excellent score by Carter Burwell("Three Kings", "Being John Malkovich") sounds rich and clear and dialogue has no problems either, coming through crystal clear.

MENUS:: Heavily animated main menus take the viewer nicely into the movie. There is also animation when you make a choice on the main menu.

Commentary: This is a commentary track from director Simon West. The commentary does sound very much like the director is reading something that he's written while watching the film (which "Mrs. Doubtfire" director Chris Columbus also did for the commentary on that film), although I'm not sure that this is the case. Still, it's a somewhat interesting commentary track at times, with West pointing out a lot of the details of the production, with notes that I found quite interesting, such as discussion towards the begining of the track about how West and cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr. made their choices for the style of lighting. West also touches again a couple of times on the visual style that he and Menzies were able to achieve on this picture.

I say it's a dissapointing commentary though (and I don't say that about too many commentaries), because although West does provide some interesting details when he speaks, it becomes apparent early on in this track that this is going to be one of those commentaries that contain its fair share of pauses between discussion. Although some sections of the commentary contain a fairly decent amount of discussion, there were some pauses during this talk that were long enough to make me wonder if the commentary was still going on, which I found dissapointing. It seemed as if the pauses became more frequent as the track went on.

Other things that West touches on during the discussion are his thoughts on the various actors as well as how some of the effects were done. He also offers a number of entertaining and informative stories about what went on during the filming of certain scenes throughout. What became a little annoying was the fact that West falls back occasionally on simply commenting on what's going on on-screen, and that gets a little dull. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate greatly that Paramount put a commentary track as an addition to this DVD, but really, it's definitely not one of the better commentaries I've heard this year.

Deleted Scenes: These are 5 deleted scenes that are 10 minutes in length.Two make up the romantic element between John Travolta and Madeline Stowe's characters. Director Simon West decided that this part of the story should not be included in the final film, and before the scenes begin, we hear him tell why. The others are fairly interesting additions showing more of Travolta's investigation. The 2nd Stowe/Travolta scene is an alternate ending to the film.

Behind-The-Scenes Featurette: More of a "documentary", I'd say: this is a 20 minute "behind-the-scenes" look at the making of this movie. The usual elements are of course included: we get interviews with the majority of the cast as well as director Simon West. There are some interesting details offered about the production, such as the intense heat and conditions that had to be contended with during filming as well as a look at some of the sets that had to be built for this movie. We also get a sneak peek at some of the special props that were brought in for this picture. I really liked a lot of how this documentary takes the viewer for a "behind-the-scenes" look at how a lot of the filming was done, with sequences that show the various cameras used at work.

Of course, there are also talks about the characters and the relationships that they have, and interviews with the actors generally fill out the details on who they play and what they do. A very nicely done documentary and a fine addition to the DVD.

Trailers: The teaser and theatrical trailers are included.

Final Thoughts The movie isn't too bad, and the image/sound quality is very enjoyable, but the commentary track I felt was dissapointing. The documentary and the deleted scenes do make nice additions, though. Worth a look as a rental.

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