The General’s Daughter

John Travolta stars as a warrant officer charged with finding the murderer of a popular general’s daughter. Will he solve the crime? Of course he will – as with many murder mysteries nowadays, the killer is caught in a tidy, wrap-it-up fashion. The fun in these kinds of movies is in how the crook did the crime or in how the protagonist solves the crime.

Joining Travolta in his quest is Madeline Stowe, who works with the rape victims-support squad. (Stowe’s a good choice for the role, but her character is very superficially drawn.) We run into colonels, captains, privates, and more as Travolta and Stowe search for clues and… well, basically do detective stuff.

Now, I’m certainly not going to give away the killer, but let’s just say the writers didn’t take much time in picking his identity, and you as viewer likely won’t, either. Travolta undertakes his task with a sort of grim determination, with the kind of jaw-clenching superheroism you’d expect from maybe…. Superman, or something. There’s not a whole lot he can do with the role, but you sort of get the sense that Travolta’s a little miscast.

Basic plot? While Travolta tries to find out the killer’s identity, the Army just wants to keep a lid on the whole episode, and they want it solved before the FBI comes in (conveniently, 36 hours after the crime). Ever see “A Soldier’s Story,” which came out years ago and had a very similar plot? In that movie, there were plenty of twists and turns. In place of twists and turns in this movie, we have predictability and the aura of should-have-seen-it-coming.

This is not a bad movie. In fact, it has earnest performances by Travolta, Stowe, James Woods, and James Cromwell (and a surprisingly effective one by Clarence Williams III!). The problem is that it’s a little underplotted and a little too easy to follow. Instead of taking the viewer on a path to the truth that is swamped in a traffic jam of turns, this script takes a direct route. It makes for relatively uninteresting cinema.

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