Tom Cruise movie #2
Release date: December 18, 1981
Running time: 126 minutes
STORY: An announcement that the venerable Bunker Hill Military Academy, a 141-year-old institute, is to be torn down and replaced with condos sets off the young cadets led by their stodgy commander. Under the command of a student cadet major, the cadets seize the campus, refuse entry of the construction crews and ultimately confront the real military.
Man! I’m moving snail-likely with this challenge. Might as well throw my hands up and admit defeat. 😛
The movie is based on Father Sky by Devrey Freeman and featured a young Tom Cruise before he was well, Tom Cruise, as Cadet Captain David Shawn and boy, did TC look good in that uniform! I think TC is that ONE actor who can pull off any uniform. He looked fantabulous and I enjoyed watching his every movement in this film. He made his entrance from the 6th minute.
Honor, integrity, discipline. These principles are taught by the Bunker Hill Military Academy, but when the cadets seize the campus, these principles are soon forgotten.
The film begins with Bunker Hill Military Academy concluding another successful school year. Retired Brigadier General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott) meets in private with Cadet Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton) promoting Moreland to Cadet Major. Moreland is congratulated by his best friend Cadet Captain Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn), shortly followed by his other friends, Cadet Lieutenant Edward West (Evan Handler) and Red Beret Cadet Captain David Shawn (Tom Cruise), who staged a hallway celebration for the newly promoted Cadet Major.
During the parade, General Bache announces that Bunker Hill’s board of trustees is selling the school to real estate developers. This announcement does not sit well with the school and although the General confirms that the school will remain open for one more year, he is hopeful that the school can be saved.
“We have a year. Entire wars have been won in less time.”
That evening, there is a ball to honor the graduates, but this festive night gets disrupted when some local troublesome teenagers harass the cadets. A scuffle takes place between them and the cadets, and General Bache tries to break up the fight. In the heat of the scuffle, one of the rowdy teens seizes the General’s service pistol and the weapon accidentally discharged, killing the leader of the disruptive gang. After the accidental shooting, a series of unfortunate events follow:
^ Bache is arrested for manslaughter (this triggers a heart attack for the General and he is taken to the hospital in critical condition)
^ The board of trustees closes Bunker Hill immediately.
^ All weapons are confiscated.
^ The cadets retaliate by starting a coup. Well, not actually, but they fight back in their own way.
“The right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution, sir.”
Under Major Moreland’s command, the cadets take control of Bunker Hill. Moreland wants 3 demands met including a meeting with General Bache. Cadets are sent out to get food to restock Bunker Hill’s provisions. On the way back, the deuce that Cadet Captain J.C. Pierce (Giancarlo Esposito) is driving breaks down and Dwyer get out to fix the engine. Some townies notice the cadet and attempt to seek vengeance for the death of their friend. They scuffle with Dwyer and Pierce who had climbed down from the deuce to defuse the situation. Upon seeing that the situation was only going to get worse, Shawn rushes out of his deuce and blasts a mag into the air from his M16 scaring them off.
The cadets abandon their stalled deuce fleeing the scene in Shawn’s deuce. Shawn rams the sheriff’s car that was blocking their path causing Dwyer to get mad (Ungrateful prat!). Dwyer complaints to Moreland calling Shawn a maniac, but Moreland refuses to buy it and commends Shawn instead, who proudly declares that he saw his duty and did it. It was actually one of Tom Cruise’s finest moments in the film. I replayed it a couple of times.
The police soon surround Bunker Hill’s campus standing off with the determined cadets. A few parents eventually meet with Moreland including Moreland’s father, Master Sergeant Kevin Moreland (Wayne Tippit). The parents accuse Moreland of holding their children against their will which the Cadet Major immediately deny.
“Lady, if my son can be involved then your son can be involved in it. Let’s not get holier than that.”
The meeting doesn’t go over well between the Morelands and to prove to the parents and police that no one is being held against their will, Moreland assembles the cadets and offers them a chance to leave. Every single one chooses to stay. Colonel Kerby (Ronny Cox) arrives on the scene to negotiate with Moreland, who refuses to budge. The next morning, Moreland discovers that eleven cadets had fled the campus during the night. Once again, he calls for assembly and offers the opportunity to leave rather than desert. This time, Lieutenant West and a great number of cadets lay down their weapons. When one of Shawn’s own was walking away, Shawn sternly demanded: “Take off that beret.”
The operation was a lost cause from the beginning and I think Moreland lost the plot when he took over the campus.
“They want us to be good little boys now so we can fight some war for them in the future.”
Shortly after the cadets walk out, the water supply is cut. Tension is ripe once again when Dwyer makes fun of Shawn, who calmly holds his own like a true cadet, not giving Dwyer the pleasure of retaliating. However, when Dwyer calls Moreland queer, the two friends start a fist fight. Moreland was winning when the electricity goes out. More tragedy follows when Cadet Pierce is burned while helping to restart the gasoline-powered generator. Following this incident, Colonel Kerby tries to make Moreland see reason. Moreland will only stand down if he is taken to see General Bache and the General gives the order himself.
Then Kerby drops a bombshell: the General died the night before.
The cadets take this revelation hard and hold a military service in the General’s honor. The night after, two young cadets, Derek and Charlie, whom Moreland had taken a brotherly liking for, are on sentry duty when an M60 Patton tank approaches the main gate. Derek panics and rushes to surrender. Charlie rushes to stop his friend who drops his rifle which goes off as it hits the ground. The guards outside the gate panic and opens fire killing Charlie instantly.
Seeing that Charlie’s death had an effect on Moreland, Kerby gives an ultimatum: the cadets must surrender before he takes the campus at dawn. Dwyer tries to persuade Moreland to give it up at dawn. There was nothing else to fight for.
“Declare a victory. Let’s say we won the war, let’s go home.”
The next morning, Dwyer and Moreland orders the cadets to stand down. Everyone complies except Shawn, who snaps and fires at Colonel Kerby from the barracks. Upon seeing this, Dwyer and Moreland rush inside to stop Shawn, who grins like a maniac and shouts:
“It’s beautiful, man! It’s beautiful!”
Moreland bravely – or stupidly – tries to get Shawn away from the M60 MG. Both he and Shawn are gunned down in the process. The film ends with a weeping Dwyer carrying his best friend’s body out of the barracks followed by a montage of film footage during happy days at Bunker Hill.
^ Tom Cruise was originally going to play a background character, but the director was so impressed by the way Cruise conducted himself as one of the military cadets during rehearsals that he was offered the part of David Shawn.
^ This was Sean Penn’s first feature film.
^ The Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana rejected filming at their campus when they learned of the film’s ending.
^ This was only Tom Cruise’s second film, appearing in it at the age of nineteen, playing Cadet Captain David Shawn. Cruise received fifth billing in the casting list.
Would I watch again: I think I had my fill.
My overall favorite line is where Shawn screams, « It’s beautiful, man! It’s beautiful! »
There were holes in the plot, but the characters worked well. Tom Cruise and Sean Penn’s characters had some very strong and aggressive hatred going on for each other.
I think Dwyer had a crush on Shawn, who had a thing for Brian, who had a thing back for him, the reason Dwyer probably disliked/envied Shawn, who looked at Brian with awe every moment he got. Shawn was also very loyal to the Major until the end where he snapped. Come on, work with me here. See my reason. It was a boys’ school after all. Anyway, that is just my theory. I look at films inside-out and sometimes it can get the best of me.
Tom Cruise as David Shawn paved the way for future roles in Collateral and Jack Reacher.
*** Images via Google Search