Continuing on the trend I started last month, I thought I would once again write about an older film that I recently watched (again).  I remember watching “Taps” for the first time two back in the eighties and thinking “this is a pretty cool movie”.  I watched it again in the nineties and I thought “eh…it’s okay”.  Well, I recently sat down again and watched it once more.  I know, shocking, right?  Me?  Watching a movie three or four times?  As you age, your tastes change – or at least your perspective does.  So, once more I have changed my opinion of this film, and it is thus: this film is absolutely FANTASTIC!

For starters, the major leads of this film include some real heavyweights in the acting profession.  The list includes: George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, and Tom Cruise.  In case you may have forgotten, all of these actors have won an Academy Award for Best Actor.  Now, that’s a collection of talent!  Young they may have been, but Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton are brilliant!  Penn’s performance starts out very understated, but as the movie progresses, he kicks it into high gear and totally chews up the scene in the final minutes of the movie.  It’s kind of hard to believe that this is the guy would breathe life into Spicolli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”!  Personally, I think he’s probably a bit of a freak as a person, but he is truly a talented actor.  (On that note, if you’d like another great demonstration of his talent, try “the Interpreter” with both he and Nicole Kidman.)

Hutton is perfectly matched for this role.  Maybe it was his age?  Maybe it was the script?  Regardless, he was wonderfully believable as the Cadet Major.  I especially liked his portrayal of this young man’s admiration for the General, played by George C. Scott.  He stands up for what he believes to be the correct way of handling the situation into which he is cast.  He struggles with his decisions and the actions of his subordinates, and throughout it all, he handles himself as a fine, upstanding man of honor.  Of course, when the situation goes completely out of control, he tries to do anything he can to “do the right thing”.  Hutton excels at one of the more subtle traits of being an actor: he SHOWS you what he is thinking through his facial expressions.  I just found his performance to not just be compelling, but he made me aware of how utterly likeable his character is.  In his confusion and in his sadness, Hutton portrays a teen that has suddenly realized the horror of war and that it is not honorable.  It is so poignantly acted that you can easily weep.

So, on the fourth time of watching this movie, I would have to say that I was struck by so many of the “other” things I look for in movies today.  I have known that I can be critical of crappy movies very easily, but with good movies I tend to gloss things over.  It’s hard to dissect what makes a great movie truly great, and not just “good”.  Think about the last time you really analyzed your favorite movie.  Now, ask yourself this question: how does this movie compare to your second favorite movie?  You see?  Now, you are in the quandary of what makes the one movie more exceptional than the second.   “Taps” is not my favorite movie, but I can tell you what makes it exceptional.  I find that any “good” film that gets you to think about things and to emotionally connect with the characters.  What makes “Taps” a great movie?  The acting!  Other actors may have done okay with it, but these performances are worthy of taking note!

—and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE


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