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When a fiercely devoted group of military school cadets learns that their school is being sold to real estate developers, they refuse to accept defeat.
For more about Taps and the Taps Blu-ray release, see Taps Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 23, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Cruise, George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Ronny Cox, Sean Penn, Evan Handler
Director: Harold Becker
» See full cast & crew
Taps Blu-ray Review
Early work from Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 23, 2011
My late father was a Major General in the U.S. Army, and in fact was one of the highest ranking officers west of the Mississippi when I was growing up, so I was raised in an environment where tradition, honor and duty weren't just buzzwords, they were literally a way of life. Like most young boys, I absolutely idolized my Dad and for many years as a youngster I wanted to follow in his military footsteps and told everyone who would listen that I was going to be attending West Point and pursuing a career in the Armed Forces. That dream died, as most very young dreams do, with the advent of my teenage years and a perhaps more worldly understanding about the rigors and dangers of being a member of our armed services. At about the same time, my typical teenage mood swings led both of my parents to "suggest" (I wouldn't want to come right out say they threatened) that a military boarding school might cure me of some of my 15 year old "attitude." For these reasons alone, Taps has always held a certain allure for me, as I couldn't help but invent backstories for some of the characters depicted in this 1981 film about a bunch of military school cadets who take over their Academy when it's threatened with closure. Featuring a number of early performances by a retinue of young actors who would go on to greater fame and fortune (Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise), Taps may still strain credulity more than a little, but it provides showcases for Hutton and Penn especially, and it still retains a certain dramatic edge despite its improbable aspects.
Some have compared Taps to Lord of the Flies (and look below in the supplements section to see a perhaps unexpected comparison to another film coming from Taps's producer Stanley Jaffe), but is that really an apt assessment? Lord of the Flies after all deals with a bunch of very young kids who are thrown into a state of savagery without any adult supervision and in an atavistic environment that gets many of them back to a near primal level. Taps on the other hand is dealing with a bunch of military cadets who are admittedly thrust into an untenable situation much like the Lord of the Flies kids, but who instead of devolving into a primal state actually become a relatively well oiled military machine. Jaffe makes a point that the cadets' very training in rigidity is what leads to their eventual downfall, and that in and of itself is a salient point of difference between Taps and Lord of the Flies.
The basic plot line of Taps is relatively simple, albeit tinged heavily with coincidence and a certain amount of improbability. The film starts with Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton) being promoted to Cadet Major by Brigadier General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott), the Commander of the prestigious Bunker Hill Academy. A Cadet Major is the highest rank in the cadets and Moreland will be the second in command of the boys at the Academy. Within just a couple of days due to a number of intervening events (one of which is so patently melodramatic it may pull some viewers out of the relative "reality" of the film), a decision is made to close Bunker Hill immediately. Moreland meets with his young "troops" and the decision is made to take over the campus and prevent it from being closed.
A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to make it through Taps unscathed, but if the viewer is willing to concede several questionable plot points, there are several redeeming factors which help to keep the film solidly exciting and suspenseful. Chief among these are the really excellent performances from Hutton and Penn, both looking now incredibly young to those of us more used to their middle aged appearances. Hutton is buttoned down, much like his Academy Award winning performance in Ordinary People which came a year before this film, but he communicates an incredible amount of information through his eyes. It may be surprising for some to see Penn in this sort of "rah-rah America" role, but he once again proves what depths of characterization are at his beck and call, and he has a shatteringly effective scene towards the end of the film.
Less effective, and actually laughable a couple of times, is a very young Tom Cruise, who mistakes being really intense for giving a nuanced performance. His opening marching scene in a hallway of Bunker Hill has to be seen to be believed. All I can say, as someone who grew up in a military family and witnessed many a march, parade and otherwise, I personally have never seen anyone with the bizarre "style" Cruise displays in that sequence.
While there are some problems with the screenplay, which never quite knows whether it wants to be a sort of adolescent Seven Days in May or in fact a military version of Ordinary People, director Harold Becker does an excellent job in staging the proceedings with a solid and largely gimmick free approach. Though George C. Scott's role amounts to little more than a cameo, the fact that Becker could handle someone of his stature alongside a bevy of younger, less experienced actors speaks volumes about his skill level.
Taps is in its own way as elegiac as its titular tune. The film seems to realize it's depicting a bygone lifestyle whose aims, while noble, seem decidedly at odds with a modern, cynical world that tires of discipline and tradition all too easily. Filled with some very effective performances and not overly hobbled by a fairly improbable plotline, the film helps to put off that funereal song for at least a little while.
Taps Blu-ray, Video Quality
Taps' AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 is surprisingly strong, with only a few passing issues that may bother the more persnickety videophile. The image is clear and there is little if any damage to report. Colors are strong and very well saturated, especially the reds, which are in fact so robustly saturated that they are just this side of blooming a time or two. Fine detail is intact and the grain structure is natural looking without ever becoming overwhelming. There is some occasional softness in some of the darker nighttime shots, which are slightly hobbled by minor crush. A couple of quickly passing moments of aliasing are also in evidence, as is some moderate edge enhancement and haloing, but otherwise this is a very crisp and appealing transfer that should delight the film's fans.
Taps Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While Taps has a perfectly solid, and at times very robust, lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, it doesn't really bristle with consistent surround activity. The film's best sonic moments are in some of the battle scenes, where a variety of gunshots echo with ferocious LFE and discrete channel utilization is at its most prominent. Otherwise, this is actually a fairly small scale dialogue driven film which sports excellent fidelity if no outright "wow" moments of incredible immersion. Maurice Jarre's score is very well represented and the overall mix is very well handled, with some appealing and dramatic dynamic range.
Taps Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Taps Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Taps is wildly improbable, and yet it retains a very visceral impact courtesy of some fine performances by Hutton and Penn and some of the excellent supporting cast. Some of the film may appear overly melodramatic, but there are some finely crafted moments of suspense and some especially fine interplay between some of these very young actors, and for those reasons alone, the film manages to rise above some of its more hackneyed elements. This Blu-ray release features really solid image and audio quality and should be enjoyed by the film's many fans, as well as introducing it to a whole new generation of appreciators. Recommended.
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Taps Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Early May Blu-ray Wave from Fox - March 14, 2011
Early retailer information indicates that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release three catalog titles on May 3: All the Right Moves (Michael Chapman, 1983), Taps (Harold Becker, 1981) and Twelve O'Clock High (Henry King, 1949). There are no release details ...
Taps Blu-ray Screenshots
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