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Taps (SE)
DVD disk
09.12.2006 By: Quigles
Taps (SE) order
Director:
Harold Becker

Actors:
Timothy Hutton
Sean Penn
Tom Cruise

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When their academy is threatened by way of demolition, a group of young military cadets seize control of their beloved school in hopes of bending the "forces that be" to their demands. Eventually, things get out of control, and the young soldier's lives begin to hang in the balance.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
As TAPS began nearing its 40-minute mark, I had just about prepared myself for a pretty damn boring two hours. But then something happened - the movie took an abrupt turn, and suddenly became interesting. It wasn't until after the rest of the film had rapidly passed by that it occurred to me just how beneficial the first third of the flick really is, as it perfectly sets up the scenes to follow, thus making the payoff that much sweeter. Not many films are capable of delivering that type of rewarding feeling, so for that reason I believe TAPS deserves a hearty pat on back (or maybe a nice salute?). Then again, you still have to actually make it through a third of the flick before getting to the juicy stuff, so impatient viewers (myself included) may want to be wary.

While the story delves into some interesting ideas concerning themes like honor, and various philosophical issues like authoritarianism, it was still hard for me to get past some of the lesser aspects of the script. Some of the dialogue comes across as simply laughable, and there are tons of problems within specific plot points (lack of authority figures in the school, stupid response from law enforcement over easily avoidable problems, etc.). Truth to be told though, these issues don't really matter. Instead of dealing with inconsequential story developments, the movie draws its focus on the characters (and it's through these characters that the movie delivers its important messages).

All of the performances in the film, including the younger kids, are strong. Most notable of which is Sean Penn (giving his feature film debut in fine form) and Tom Cruise (adding his second feature to his filmography in an equally powerful performance). They aren't the main characters though, as it's Timothy Hutton who shines in the lead. These are the actors that make TAP what it is, helping the movie to push past its faults and just allow the audience to enjoy the journey.
THE EXTRAS
There isn't a whole lot offered in the way of extras, but what is here is worth a look.

Commentary (by director Harold Becker): This relatively interesting and in-depth commentary delves into various aspects of the production, including casting and various elements concerning the script and story. Unfortunately, dead air starts occupying the later scenes, as Becker seems to run out of things to say.

Sounding the Call to Arms: Mobilizing the Taps Generation (29:44): Normally I don't like featurettes like these, because all they are is a bunch of interview footage on top of footage from the film. However, there's some particularly interesting about this one, as it goes over how the actors came to get their parts in the film (for example, Tom Cruise started out as a bit player and then was bumped up to a major role). Also discussed is the academy they used, what the did to change the original story, and even things like how they managed to incorporate the weather problems they were having into the actual movie.

The Bugler’s Cry: The Origins of Playing ‘Taps’ (6:54): Historian Jari Villanueva remarks on the well-known military bugle call, and discusses its history.

There are also a number of Trailers (4 of them) and TV Spots (2 of them) for the film.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Despite a slow start and some script problems, TAPS works out to be a pretty entertaining military drama/thriller. It's loaded with knockout performances, interesting philosophical discussions, and an all-around strong message about violence. Sure, the story may not be as fresh as it once was (the whole "kids standing up to authority" angle has been to death now), but the execution here makes it feel a cut above the rest. If you haven't yet seen this flick, it's definitely something to consider checking out.
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