What impresses me most about the film is its script's treatment, its evenhandedness in shaping the social issues of the times, a rare such example from a Hollywood largely wedded to leftist ideology. It characterizes both the left and the right negatively without becoming overly preachy on either score. To many, military academies like Bunker Hill seem anachronistic, but to most of its students steeped in its traditions it represents all that is virtuous of an America in dramatic post-Vietnam War societal transition. Youths from the town are essentially characterized as loudmouthed punks and provocateurs whose actions unwittingly prompt the rebellion and tragedy in the making in the academy that is shortly to befall it; a tragedy that causes Hutton's character to finally embrace reality all too late with a disillusionment so poignant that it becomes palpable. "Honor doesn't count for **** when you're looking at a dead little boy.... All you think about is what a neat little kid he was." A sense of sadness pervades this dark but intriguing movie and rises above it to life in general. Nothing lasts.
George C. Scott, as the commandant, and Ronny Cox as the conflicted National Guard commander who so sympathizes with the cadets he must shortly and reluctantly move against, contribute stellar performances amongst the adult supporting cast. The movie is based on Father Sky, a novel by screenwriter Devery Freeman who apparently was not asked to write the script, perhaps because of major changes made. I'd recommend this film wholeheartedly as it stands up admirably against the test of time and can serve as an allegory for many a life situation as the late Roger Ebert suggested in his favorable review written at a time when Penn and Cruise were largely unknown to movie audiences.
In conclusion, one is reminded of Robert E. Lee's remarks in the aftermath of "Pickett's Charge": "It's all such a waste. Too, too sad."
*** Spoilers - don't read if you want to rewatch: The movie does have plotholes, or strange decisions (why they never asked for media attention or didn't ask more actively to complete their demands). Unfortunately, because of this most people outside probably thought they are just crazy terrorists, because the media didn't show their motives really and showed just one side of the story. Or for example why did the general at the beginning never said that it was the kid who took his pistol and shot?***
This is basically the first Tom Cruise' movie (Endless Love had only 20 seconds of him) and I must say, I was surprised how good his acting in this movie already is. His character is different and I really liked him. Great job Tom!
On overall, the movie is good and it is worth watching. Even rewatching again if you have a company.
"Taps" shows us how promising Timothy Hutton, Tom Cruise and Sean Penn were as actors already in 1981 and itīs no wonder all three has had long and still ongoing careers. The storyline is based on how theory can sound convincing in the classroom, while in practice itīs something else, but also how young minds can easily be manipulated and altered by conflicting ideals of what honour and valour means and how far you will go in your conviction. "Taps" is also a comment on the armed services and the consequences you might suffer while in action. Thereīs no glory or honour in death. The film has a touch of a "documentary" feeling and Hutton, Penn and Cruise are convincing in their performances. Yes, "Taps" feels a bit "80s" today when re-seeing it and the film is a bit stretched and not fully dynamic, but the main thought of it is still current and will most likely continue to be so.