In 1962, Lawrence Bourne III (Hanks) is a Blue Blood college student who gets himself into severe trouble with gambling debts and his father won't pay. So he quickly takes a friend's place on a plane for the Peace Corps going to Thailand, where he has to build a bridge. This bridge is quickly sought out by Drug Dealers, the CIA, and the Communist army.
Volunteers provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Tom Tuttle from Tacoma (Washington).
- Blue Blood: Lawrence and his entire family.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Tom Tuttle takes to his Communist masters rather quickly.
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: John Reynolds, the supervisor of the Peace Corps volunteers, is actually a CIA agent.
- Femme Fatale: Lucille, Chung Mee's bodyguard.
- Fun with Subtitles: Lawrence and At Toon have trouble understanding Lucille, so they examine her subtitles to understand what she is saying.
- Holiday in Cambodia: Takes place for the majority in Thailand.
- Homage: There are certain references to The Bridge on the River Kwai.
- Gilligan Cut: Tom Tuttle's quick conversion to the communist cause.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Lawrence went to Yale.
- Mighty Whitey: Played straight, shockingly.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Tom Hanks' accent bounces between a bad uppercrust Boston accent to Hanks' normal voice.
- Preppy Name: Lawrence Bourne III
- Red China: The communist army who is planning on taking over the bridge for their own purposes.
- Sanity Slippage: Tom gets a little ... manic about building the bridge. He gets better.
- Supervillain Lair: Chung Mee's castle on top of a mountain with henchmen, Femme Fatale Bodyguard, a pet leopard, and spooky architecture.
- The '60s: Takes place during 1962, the initial year of the Peace Corps deployments.