Taps(Fox Home Entertainment, 9.12.2006)
After all these years, it still amazes me that Taps was a major hit when it was released in December 1981. After all, this is a deadly serious drama about nutty teenagers who go all vigilante and take over a military academy when they learn that it's being shut down by real estate developers. While a tad heavy-handed, there's something fascinating about this film's central paradox. As viewers, we are given two evils to consider: the selfish business interests that have no respect for tradition -- and would be willing to shut down a great historical institution to make some scratch -- and the brain-washed military students whose appetite for battle exceeds their capacity for reason.
The film makes a persuasive argument both for and against the students and illustrates the difficulty of idealism in a world where most people are willing to passively side with the status quo. If that's not bad enough, the movie argues, even an idealist's allies can't be trusted, as they often get carried away and take their beliefs to unreasonably bloody extremes. This brings me to Tom Cruise. While he hadn't come into his own as an actor yet when he appeared in Taps -- the first great Cruise performance was in Risky Business -- Cruise has one scene in this movie that prophecizes the day when his happy facade is gone and the true dark side reveals itself: "It's beautiful, man!"
Like Patton, this is another re-issue of a George C. Scott military movie, but with two key differences: 1) the first release of Taps was bare bones and 2) this isn't really a George C. Scott movie (he has a small, but important role). The features here aren't exhaustive, but they cover all the major bases, including the story of how a dedicated extra (Cruise) was promoted to one of the major roles in the film.
In addition to trailers and TV spots, the disc includes an informative commentary by gravelly-voiced director Harold Becker, a featurette on the bugle call that the film was named after, and "Sounding the Call: Mobilizing the Taps Generation," a 30-minute featurette that includes plenty of Timothy Hutton, but no Cruise or Sean Penn. Hutton may not be the biggest star of his generation, but he's one of the best actors and it's nice to hear his thoughts on this, his first film after winning an Oscar for Ordinary People (he went straight from the ceremony to the set). Overall, this is a much-appreciated upgrade. -- Jonathan Doyle