Born on the Fourth of July Classic Movie Review
Director : Oliver Stone
Cast Headliners: Tom Cruise
Original Release Date: December 20, 1989
Seen: June 2013
Seen: June 2013
Born on the Fourth of July is undeniably the magnum opus of Oliver Stone and simultaneously the crowning achievement highlight of Tom Cruise’s acting career. This is the true story of Ron Kovic , a Vietnam war veteran and public speaker. It is a hard touching journey, and every minute of it is fantastic.
The structure is almost like a dark Forrest Gump. Kovic has a childhood in the idyllic 60’s, a time of bright hope for America. Stone interweaves clever metaphors into the film, an example being the “violent” opening scene of kids playing war. A older Ron Kovic is played by Cruise from here on out, and as his high school graduation approaches he has to deal with the responsibility of choosing to be a marine. Special mention goes out to Tom Berenger who appears as a marine speaker at Kovic’s high school, and also to Willem Dafoe who appears as another Vietnam veteran much later in the film. It is a long movie, but the tension of it keeps the pace moving. In a way it is a follow up to the ideas of the fellow Vietnam War movie Platoon, building upon its ideas as I’ll soon mention.
Born on the Fourth of July, like Cruises’ role in Kovic, constantly changes. The scenes actually in Vietnam are both beautifully and realistically shot, really bringing the horrific war to life. While there, the proud Kovic is unfortunately injured and left paralyzed. A young war hero is left defenseless, and this is where the real movie starts. Because really, this is a post-Vietnam aftermath film and not a Vietnam war film. Kovic goes through horrible things abroad, but perhaps faces even greater challenges when he is crippled and confined to a wheelchair. Cruise has some tear-inducing moments trying to survive and be successful. He shows such a range and grace as Kovic, transforming his trademark charm into emotional power. He certainly would have been worth winning the Oscar nomination he got for this.
Stone has crafted a very emotional drama, with scenes aided by a stellar soundtrack. As with any Oliver Stone creation, there is a not-so-subtle message at play. The anti-war movement Kovic interacts and drifts into has some dramatic clashes with the government. Perhaps the message gets repetitive, but it is thought provoking.
This is touching drama about what soldiers who experience the tragedies of war really feel. Ron Kovic was brought to the cinema with expertise by Tom Cruise, and this should be remembered. 9 out of 10