14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Eagles Fly on Mountains High ....,
This review is from: An Officer And A Gentleman (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)This film is a classic and viscerally honest portrayal of human conflict and personal growth. It clearly depicts working class young adults who sought to break away from past barriers and limitations and build better lives for themselves. It is a coming of age story, where a full spectrum of feelings are explored as young adults learn about fulfilling their potential, building value systems and attempting to fulfill personal desires with honesty and integrity on many levels. Two hot young stars were cast in the leading roles: Richard Gere who was riding high on his recent success in "American Gigolo" and Debra Winger who shined in her role in "Urban Cowboy". With stars of this caliber, it surprised me to learn (in the Special Features section) that doubts existed about the film's acceptance by theater audiences. In fact, the script had made the rounds of different studios for eight years, with no one daring to make the film which was essentially about training Naval pilots. The concern was it was too close to the end of the Viet Nam War and would be rejected by the public as being about war. Luckily, the film was interpreted very differently by the viewing audience who saw it in a positive light where personal survival, transformation and the expression of love were the key elements successfully played out on film.
Richard Gere stars as Zack Mayo, a hardened, slightly rebellious loner who locked up his feelings and dared not get emotionally close to people. He had been hurt as a youth when his mother committed suicide and he went to live with his dad, who was a selfish womanizer and alcoholic. When Zack announced his acceptance into Naval candidacy school to become a pilot, his father did not give him accolades or support. This was nothing new and it did not matter to Zack who pursued his dream with determination and courage. At the Port Townsend Naval Base, Zack learned discipline and made new friends. The camaraderie of being candidates and challenging themselves to acheive their goals awakened something new within him which totally transformed him. Zack excelled in physical survival skills and martial arts training. It was Gunnery Sergeant Foley's job to detect weakness of character and courage, to eliminate candidates who would not survive under the harsh conditions of war. Foley knew of Zack's streetwise rebellious tendencies and rode him hard. Foley and Zack clashed periodically and one climactic scene especially stood out ... where Foley meted out severe discipline and punishment to get Zack to ask for a "D.O.R" slip (drop out on request). Zack endured the punishment and after a particularly difficult session of physical endurance tests, Zack *finally* gut wrenchingly admitted, "I got nowhere else to go" ...
Besides the obvious story about a group of young adults who under go rigorous training to become Naval pilots, several other stories arise and are fully developed within the plot which makes this film so highly appealing. Early on, Sgt Foley warned the candidates that young ladies who work in local factories, come from across the Puget Sound, to meet Naval candidates, with one goal in mind: to marry a Navy pilot. They will stoop to any means to win their man. Zack and his friend Sid are dressed to kill in their white uniforms during a social dance where they connect with two charming and beautiful factory workers of similar age to themselves. Paula a raven-haired beauty, played by Deborah Winger is paired with Zack, while Lynette, an attractive blond is paired with Sid. The attraction between the paired off guys and ladies is mutual and in a short time, they often meet for consensual physical liasons, even going to a local motel when the candidates are on leave. While everyone agrees it is with "no strings attached", the ladies have secret agendas with hopes of marriage. Zack attempts to play the gentleman, by going to meet Paula's parents and have dinner at their home. However, he still holds back and makes no promises to Paula. Paula plays it cool, claiming to expect nothing but she *does* manage to melt his cool exterior when their physical relationship becomes more steamy and personal. The guys discuss their plans to break off the liasons after graduation. As the end of their training is near, the two candidates cool their relationships with the two ladies. Lynette pulls a trick to win Sid, that backfires in ways totally unimaginable. She refuses Sid's engagement ring which results in one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and realistic scenes ever depicted on film. This earth-shattering event shakes Zack up and makes him realize what is real and important in his life ... While the ending may arguably be interpreted by some as corny and hokey, in effect, it is very satisfying and provides an honest and fulfilling conclusion to the film. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]