Taps (1981)
February 26, 2023 12:32 PM - Subscribe

Lessons are learned when cadets at a military school stand up for their values and traditions.

Starring George C. Scott and Timothy Hutton
Also starring Ronny Cox, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Evan Handler, and Giancarlo Esposito
Directed by Harold Becker

68% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes
JustWatch listing
posted by Stuka (11 comments total)
I showed this movie to my teenage son and his friends and they were rapt.
posted by jjderooy at 2:19 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

I rewatched Taps last night. And I got more out of it than I ever have in the past. The movie is buoyed by its performances and production values.

George C. Scott is excellent in what is basically the Patton character in another time and place. Tim Hutton gives another excellent performance as young and wounded. Sean Penn is also excellent as the requisite "outsider" character. And then there is Tom's performance. Very over the top. But it works for me with the way his character turns out. Ronny Cox rounds things out with a stellar performance playing the voice of reason.

The attention to detail is very good. For instance, Tim Hutton's on screen father is said to have recently transfered to a certain fort. And then when he showed up in the movie, he was wearing the correct insignia for the unit that was actually there in the 80s. The whole production seems like a love letter to the uniform.

The story is the weak point. But everything else is so good at selling it, it's easy for me to overlook.
posted by Stuka at 5:31 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]

A pretty great movie, if you can buy that a military school for children and teenagers could get their hands on enough live ammo to hold off a siege. One of the things that fascinates me is that it was shot at a real military school, Valley Forge Military Academy and College (grades 7-12 and junior college), which by the Wikipedia description sounds even wilder than the movie--apparently, it's based on British military customs, and some of the cadets wear the bearskin.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

I keep getting this one mixed up with the one where Wil Wheaton gets gunned down (Toy Soldiers 1991, I think).
posted by porpoise at 8:37 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]

I can remember seeing this when it came out. It might have been the first movie I went to see for a second time later on. It was harrowing and especially because it was so far away from my own experience (California, laid-back fuck war &c). Hutton was the one who stood out for me, and I can remember looking out for him in other movies thereafter. He was good in "Ordinary People," too, which I never did see in the theater, only much later when it ran on TV.
posted by chavenet at 2:25 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]

Toy Soldiers is the right one. It was filmed at Miller Academy down the road from Charlottesville, VA. It was the first movie filmed there. The second was Major Payne.

There are so many actors getting ready to blow up the screen in this one (and to a similar degree, as in Toy Soldiers - it also had Louis Gossett Jr). As much as one might remember Wheaton being gunned down, I always remember the overly psyched pre-Risky Business Tom Cruise getting himself gunned down. It was also one of the first times I ever learned about the whole idea of "townies" and what not.
posted by Atreides at 12:52 PM on February 27

You know the cliché of the soldier that's killed soon after showing his girlfriend's picture and talking about getting married when he gets back home? I feel that this movie was doing some similar 1980's-style foreshadowing as the one kid whose first lines are about D&D is the one that goes apeshit violent by the end.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:23 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

Tom Cruise and Sean Penn basically play each other's roles.

Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton returned in The Falcon and the Snowman.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:25 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) also has a townie confrontation scene.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:28 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]

This was a favorite for a few years before high school. Disturbing, very serious, cute boys.

I think of Breaking Away when I hear "townies".
posted by Glinn at 4:53 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]

Roger Ebert’s review agreed with much of what is said here—yes, the plot is the weak point. It does seem implausible that George C. Scott is the only adult around, there are no other faculty members to counsel the boys. It’s an allegory, not a movie plot.
posted by Melismata at 3:58 PM on March 4

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