An Officer and a Gentleman

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Loners, drifters and everywhere in between. In movies, one of the most recurring themes is that of the loner who, either by chance or predestination has been forced to grow up tough and alone. Richard Gere’s character of Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman may be one of the better examples of this. Mayo was sent to live with his father at a very early age. His father, Byron (Robert Loggia), was an enlisted sailor who spent almost as much time doing his job than he did chasing women around the Orient. He flat out tells Zack that he “doesn’t have time for this fathering bit…” and makes it clear at an early age that Zack was basically on his own. Zack, a tough kid, knew this and though the childhood part of the movie is a few minutes, we see that nothing has ever been handed to Zack on a silver platter. Not knowing what to really do with his life, he decides to enlist in the Navy. His goal is to become a fighter pilot, something that his father laughs at. Figuring that he has nothing to lose, he heads to OCS (Officer Candidate School) to begin the very long trail to accomplishing something that has been a dream of his for many years.

The way the program works is like this: A Gunnery Sergeant (usually a Marine) is the drill instructor and then leads the candidates through a very rigorous course (both physical and mental). Of course, he is shaping future officers that he will eventually have to salute, but it’s his/her job. The man taking this position is Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) who won an Academy Award for his role here. Picking apart almost every flaw, both noticeable and not, Foley has the cadets at attention from the moment they step onto the premisis. Whether it’s remarks about their appearance, height or attitude, Foley has something to say about everything. It’s with Zack Mayo, though, that he finds the most interesting. Zack, having never really had a real friend before, befriends Sid Worley (David Keith), a native of Oklahoma. The two are similar in ways, but different in others. We learn that Zack is unquestionably the bes athlete of his class, but what he has in physical advantage, he lacks in the classroom. Aside from the progress through the class, the story is essentially about Sid and Zack’s relationship with the local women. Working at a paper mill, the women have ambitions of marrying an officer from the school and having some sort of better life. When they meet Paula (Debra Winger) and Lynette (Lisa Blount), it spells trouble in more ways than one.

Zack, growing up the hard way, has the intention to use Paula for his “entertainment” during the course of his training. Sid also has the same intention, but starts to really fall for Lynette. Conversely, Paula starts to fall for Zack. Interwoven throughout the story is the relationship between Foley and Zack and Zack and Paula. Foley sees real potential in Mayo, thus rides him the hardest. Mayo, being somewhat of a hustler has figured out a way to earn some extra money by having shoes, belt buckles and other items pre cleaned (the items had to be ready for inspection at a moments notice). Of couse, we know that all of this will come to a head. Zack has to eventurally confront Paula and has to settle his differences with Foley as well. On the same token, Sid has to deal with his emotions about Lynette and her possible reaction. Featuring a very young David Caruso (best known for NYPD Blue), An Officer and Gentleman is a movie that wasn’t expected to do well, but definately found it’s audience. This is one of those movies you just “have to see”. Highly recommended.

Video: How does it look?

An Officer and a Gentleman is presented in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture is enhanced for widescreen TV’s and looks very good for a movie that is coming up on 20 years old. While a few scratches exist, there is some shimmering noticeable as well. The movie was shot almost entirely in the Pacific Northwest and as Taylor Hackford (Director) explains in the commentary, it was the year after Mt. Saint Helens erupted, so there was a lot of volcanic dust still in the air and therefore it was either cloudy or rained almost every day. Hackford also explains that this gave the colors a very saturated look, as the grey of the sky and outdoors had this effect on how the film ultimately looked. In fact, I noticed only one scene in which there was a blue sky (Paula and Lynette on the ferry). Overall, though, it’s another catalog title that has been given a dramatic boost visually due to Paramount’s commitment to giving the title a 16:9 transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

One of the few titles that has not been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. An Officer and a Gentleman has the original mono track on the disc. The sound, for the most part, is satisfactory. While there were a few pops, it’s clear that even if this movie had been made today, it wouldn’t be an audio-driven movie. The title song “Nothing Goes Up Where We Belong” played during the credits, sounds good as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Featuring noting more than a trailer and a commentary track, I’ll focus on the latter. Taylor Hackford gives some of the most interesting tracks out there. He will literally not shut up. Now for a commentary track (especially one that he’s alone on), that’s good! Hackford tells of his troubles with Paramount (as he told of his troubles with Warner on the Devil’s Advocate track…wonder if it’s him who’s hard to work with and not the studio in question)? He speaks alot about the weather and how grey it was and even tells us that in most of the shots that it’s pouring rain (though we can’t tell). He also mentions some of his other movies like Dolores Claiborne and La Bamba. Overall, its a very good track. I’m assuming that most people who buy this disc have seen the movie a few times, so I would encourage you to listen to the track, as it’s most intersting. Also, I challenge you to count the number of times hackford says “Working Class” during the commentary. I lost count.

Disc Scores