WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
TAPS is one of those films that seems edgy and relevant upon its original theatrical release but after a certain time becomes hopelessly dated and even silly. In the age of Columbine, this story of military cadets forcefully taking over their school isn't exactly far-fetched, but it's certainly lost some power.
This modern, militaristic take on Lord of the Flies follows cadets Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton), David Shawn (Tom Cruise), and Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn) as they arm themselves and their combat-programmed students to the teeth and defend their academy from greedy land developers. George C. Scott has a fairly memorable—if brief—role as General Harlan Bache, a model of patriotism and valor for the armed kiddies.
TAPS has a powerful anti-violence message at its center, and has a great deal to say about the folly of male aggression and the danger of misplaced honor and duty. Unfortunately, the years haven't been kind to this earnest little movie. The proceedings lean toward self-importance, and the screenplay gives you little to latch on to as the cadets make their rash decisions. None of the characters ever truly seems human, except for Moreland at film's end, but the real failing of the film is that it never instills understanding in its audience: Why should we care about the school these kids are defending if we never truly get a glimpse of its magic? What's so damn special about this place?
All that being said, it's a kick to watch this film for all its young, recognizable faces. Cruise, Penn, and Hutton are obviously acting their hearts out, seemingly understanding that good-to-great futures lay ahead.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Fox presents TAPS in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The anamorphic-widescreen image is somewhat disappointing. The print is marred by dirt and obvious wear. Detail is occasionally good but mostly wanting, even in close-ups. A general softness gives the entire film a blurred look. Colors seem unstable, with some smearing.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The Dolby Digital 4.0 track offers a sound presentation that's slightly wider than the Dolby 2.0 track, offering subtle surround effects. Still, the sound has lost some fidelity and is by no means a dynamic presentation. Some of the dialog tends toward harsh in the high end.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
A very grainy anamorphic-widescreen trailer and, strangely, a better-looking Spanish-language trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
An interesting artifact, a bit heavy-handed at times, but interesting primarily as a glimpse at the early careers of some major stars.