This proudly apolitical drama can probably be embraced by people on either side of the ideological fence.It starts by drumming up sympathy for a dying breed of man — the disciplined, thoughtful warrior who can only emerge from the rigors of a military academy. The movie’s conceit is that a beloved, established academy is about to be shut down, and its cadets — mostly young boys for whom puberty is still a dim prospect — unite to save it, using the tactics they learned in the classroom and in courtyard drills.
While it suffers from lapses in logic (a twelve-year-old is shot dead at the height of the crisis by National Guardsmen who don’t look to see what they’re shooting at), it excels at raising questions of honor and loyalty, and what all of that means when one’s ass is at stake. As the cadet leader who says his father gave him only fifteen minutes to cry after his mother died, Timothy Hutton turns in soulful, complex work; Tom Cruise and Sean Penn in early roles (it was Penn’s debut) are magnetic.It's one of the few '80s movies these days that turn up on cable on a regular basis, probably because it hasn't dated very much. Give it a try, if only to see the genesis of Sean Penn's virtuosic career.