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Film / Taps

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"Never be ashamed of being human, Mr Moreland. Without humanity, a leader becomes a tyrant."
General Bache

Taps is a 1981 film, directed by Harold Becker and starring Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and George C. Scott. The story revolves around young military cadets who take over their academy in order to prevent the directory from closing it. It is based on the book Father Sky, by Devery Freeman.

It was the second role of Tom Cruise, and his first major role after a brief appearance in Endless Love, and the first non-TV movie of Sean Penn. Timothy Hutton had already burst into the acting scene by playing in Ordinary People.


These Tropes are beautiful, man ! Beautiful :

  • Adults Are Useless: Played for drama, as just about every adult save General Bache is either jeeringly dismissive towards the boys (the school administration) or completely disinterested in their day to day lives. (Their parents) That is, until the boys seize the school by force of arms after they try to shut them down.
  • All for Nothing: The standoff ends in bloody failure, with several deaths and the school still scheduled to be closed.
  • A Father to His Men: Bache at first, and then Brian.
  • Blood Knight: Shawn is the most militant of the three main characters, and is the one who opens fire on the gathered National Guard just as Brian is about to surrender.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Mentioned by Bache in a war story he tells Moreland. "Of course I was scared. Must have lost twenty pounds, all of it brown."
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  • Calling the Old Man Out : Brian to Sergeant Moreland, who still considers him as a kid (see They Call Me Mister Tibbs).
    Brian: He [Bache] is the example we follow!
  • Child Soldiers: The senior cadets are teenagers and there are considerably younger ones as well. Moreland even quotes what Bache taught him about children being the last line of muster, something that Col. Kerby finds horrifying.
  • Colonel Badass: Kerby, from start to finish. At first, he tries a gentle and reasoned approach with Brian, as he genuinely understands their point of view. However, once the first cadet is killed and it becomes obvious that Brian still doesn't understand that he's in over his head, Kerby wastes no time in cutting him down to size. He tells Brian in no uncertain terms that he's just been playing at being a soldier, his views on war are incredibly naive and romanticized because they're based on classroom lectures and not real life, his cadets don't stand a chance against trained soldiers, and the campus will be retaken. While he's spelling all this out, it's clear from Brian's face and body language that he's having another BSOD.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: An insane idiot armed with only an M-60 goes up against an M48 Main Battle Tank. It ends pretty much exactly how you would expect.
  • Death of a Child: All the cadets who die.
  • Death Seeker: Colonel Kerby accuses Brian and other cadets of being this.
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with several soldiers and cadets being killed and none of the demands of the cadets being met.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When climbing the stairs and getting to their room, right after the introduction ceremony, the three main characters are exposed :
    • Brian Moreland is the gentle leader, respected by all others (we don't know yet he is the Cadet Major).
    • Alex Dwyer is his subversive close friend, mocking the book of remembrance.
    • David Shawn admires Moreland but hates Dwyer (see Flipping the Bird) and already looks like an insane angry Jerkass.
  • Face–Heel Turn: "Lieutenant West, requesting permission to be dismissed, sir."
    • Not so much a Face-Heel turn as Lt. West, despite trying hard to be the voice of reason to Brian, understanding that things were spinning out of control and he was running out of ways to get Brian to see that. Brian had just mustered everyone together and said that anyone who wanted to leave was free to do so. It was absolutely clear that many people wanted to leave, but no one wanted to be the first to step forward. Lt. West simply cut the knot and stepped up first, followed by nearly half the cadets. This was Brian's first BSOD, and probably the closest he came to realizing it was a lost cause.
  • Flipping the Bird: Shawn to Dwyer in introduction.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The school IS going to be closed. Used by Colonel Kerby when telling Brian that he can't win this.
    Col. Kerby: Mr Moreland, you know, and I know, that it's never gonna go your way. You do know that, don't you ?
  • Four-Star Badass: General Bache. Played with, in that it's implied at several points that Bache's career stalled for whatever reason and his running the school is a way of reliving his Glory Days, and while he means well it's clear that his philosophy and teachings ultimately have harmful consequences.
  • Heroic BSoD: Brian gets several when things start to go wrong.
  • Honor Before Reason: Brian, oh so much. Deconstructed, since since Brian is informed by several people that rigidly and needlessly holding to his actions in the face of doomed circumstances for nothing but honor is a fool's errand, and ultimately it only results in people getting hurt and killed. Including Brian himself.
  • Military School
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Brian during his last BSOD about Charlie.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Kerby.
  • Sarcastic Devotee / Sour Supporter: Alex Dwyer is this to Brian Moreland.
  • Saving The Military School: The cadets do NOT accept its closing.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: General Bache keeps a huge arsenal in the academy, in a building that apparently all the cadets can freely access. This is particularly absurd when you consider the actual U. S. military maintains their firearms on domestic bases in highly secured armories that only certain qualified personnel have access to.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Impersonated with Shawn vs. Dwyer.
  • Taps: Obviously pops up a number of times; at the beginning when the school reads off the names and dates of alumni who fell in battle, and when they have their memorial service for General Bache. The movie's title, and thus the Trope Namer, also indicates the impending death of the academy.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Brian to his father :
    Brian: Stop calling me kid.
    Sgt Moreland: You expect me to call you Major ? You can forget it.
  • They Have Reserves: From Bache : "They kept coming at us, wave after wave. Totally indifferent to casualties. Of course, the Chinese always had plenty of bodies to spare."

- What in God's name did they teach you in here? What did they turn you into?
- A TROPER, which is the only thing I ever wanted to be !


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