Probably more notable for its sterling young cast than its contribution to the language of cinema, Taps's study of the code of honor that joins the young cadets is mildly engaging, but burdened by a predictable climax. In a reversal of subsequent career moves, Sean Penn's feature film debut as the group's conscience is impressively intense, while a very young Tom Cruise also makes a strong impression as the corp's psychopath. However, the film belongs to the sensitive and angst-ridden Timothy Hutton and the reliably grizzled George C. Scott, and neither disappoints. If only Robert Mark Kamen's script had tried to rise above the obvious and Harold Becker's (The Onion Field, Sea of Love) direction had been more energetic (the film suffers from staginess), Taps may have been a more consistently entertaining effort. Still, the film's moral conflict between the land-grabbing, profit-motive villagers and the honor-bound Bunker Hill Military Academy cadets is interesting, if somewhat dubious -- the students' views on honor and valor seem muddled and unclear.
by Dan Jardine review