Reviewed by: Ryan Kelly
Starring: George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, Ronny Cox, Brendan Ward, Evan Handler, John P. Navin Jr., Billy Van Zandt, Giancarlo Esposito, Donald Kimmel, Tim Wahrer, Tim Riley, Jeff Rochlin, Rusty Jacobs | Director: Harold Becker—“Mercury Rising” (1998), “Sea of Love” (1989) | Writers: Devery Freeman (novel), Robert Mark Kamen
“Taps” begins with a quote read from I Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The premise of “Taps” surrounds the coming of age for a young man at a military academy as illustrated through a tragic accident and an escalating standoff between military personnel and citizens. The plot: the Bunker Hill Military Academy is to be shut down, so a group of students put their military training into action and defend their “rights” to keeping the school in operation.
General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott) is in the hospital, and young Cadet-Major Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton), the highest ranking student at the academy, is faced with the responsibility of deciding whether to “roll over and play dead” to townsfolk wishing to demolish the school or to fight back. Brian decides to lead his fellow students in the way he thinks is right; stand against the town and demand that the students be consulted as to the future of the school. Brian and his peer’s personalities develop rapidly throughout the movie, as each make choices about whether they believe they are doing the right thing.
The acting in “Taps” is superb. George C. Scott is a general with a love for teaching the young men at the academy and a vision for the future of the school. Timothy Hutton (as Brian Moreland), Sean Penn (as Alex Dwyer), and Tom Cruise (as David Shawn) in his first film shell out 4-star performances. Don’t be fooled by the PG rating, however. If “Taps” was released today it would get a PG-13 rating, due to some graphic violence, profanities, and some crude remarks. (There was no PG-13 rating back in 1981, making “Taps” only warrant a PG rating.)
In “Taps”, General Bache tells Brian that citizens make military officials out to being archaic and anarchist rulers, when in reality they are not. The movie, however, lays an underlying rib at the military. This provokes the thought: is the government teaching our children to be maniacal at a military academy? “Taps” is a very powerful movie, but left me feeling somewhat depressed at the end. Only view it after considering the cautions mentioned above.