NOTE: I have never been to Viet Nam, I did not fight in Viet Nam, I have never been in the service, nor have I ever been in or visited a VA Hospital. My review of this movie is based solely on my interpretation of the movie - MY interpretation.
I am not saying Stone is correct nor am I saying what he shows is the truth. To me this is ONLY a movie and nothing more. Stone could be wrong, we could all be wrong. I say this in advance because sometimes I get a little involved in my reviews and people have taken what I have said to be fact and have taken the trouble to let me know certain things were not true. This has taken a little of the fun out of movie reviews for me but I plunge ahead anyway.
Hell, as far as I know, maybe Viet Nam never existed (well-that is a lie, unfortunately I know it did)END OF NOTE
Loosely based on the life of Ron Kovic, average American joe that goes to Viet Nam and returns as another person entirely. What really upsets me more than anything else about Viet Nam portrayals, we never show movies about returning soldiers where they aren't screwed up. Guess it would make a boring movie, huh?
The beginning of the movie deals with Rons' childhood and his beliefs in America - mom and apple pie. There are a good deal of surreal flashbacks throughout the movie which add to it instead of detracting from it. The main idea - as I interpret it - he feels even a closer tie to the ideas of freedom and justice because he was born on the 4th of July. This is back in the 50's when we were proud to be Americans - we waved our flags not burn them.
And as a proud American, Kovic went to serve in Viet Nam. ( I was fully immersed and deeply involved with Viet Nam. Some of the horror stories I have heard are far worse than anything Hollywood could pump out. In the reverse I have also heard many stories of love, dedication, companionship and fellowship.) Kovic fully believed it his right and duty to serve his country and was never swayed by the injustices he observed while there .... until he shoots a fellow soldier by accident. Suddenly his views are shadowed by the destruction being shown.
Finally, taking a bullet that paralyzes him, he is introduced to the real horror of this conflict - the VA Hospital. It is pitiful to see how these men are treated, no longer men but objects, and you can see the basis for their rage.
When he returns home to his family they confront a stranger. Vulgar, outspoken, spiteful, drunk and full of self-pity. A moral and emotional dropout. Coming to terms with his frailties and his feelings, he goes on to be an anti-war activist.
As opposed to Viet Nam as I am, you probably wonder why I watched this movie. I often wonder this very thing myself. Perhaps I could say it was for Tom Cruise but it wouldn't be true. Or I could offer the Oliver Stone' theory, another falsehood. The truth is I must watch these movies to purge the devils of Viet Nam from my mind.
Often when I look into my sons seagreen eyes I see that wistful boy of 18 going off to fight for truth, justice and the American way and I wonder in my heart if it was worth it. So, I watch these stories dedicated to Viet Nam and I wonder how my sons' father dealt with his surroundings and eventually his death. If the portrayals I see in these movies, most especially this one, are true, then I am very saddened.
Did I gain anything from this story? Not exactly. I am left wondering if there was indeed a reason for this conflict. Did we really treat our soldiers like it was shown in the hospitals? Too many questions with no truthful answers. Watching this movie brings back the memories of how our boys were treated coming home - like murderers - when, in fact for the most part they were simply children going into something they knew nothing about, following orders they did not believe in and coming home shaded and delusional.
The story itself is a good one and Kovic's ideals are good ones also. I believe Cruise finally manages to exert himself in a role that showed some true talent (other than Risky Business, practically the only other movie he made that was half way decent). For once he wasn't the glory boy loved by all but was shown as a defeated shell of a man, beaten and broken. His looks were not his selling point in this movie. I believe he gave a 110% performance, pulled from the heart and gut and deserves praise for his work.
Stone is always known to offer us scenes that are a bit too powerful for us to view. He doesn't mind packing a punch and slapping us in the face. In this movie he gives us a man stripped of his pride, his beliefs, and his manhood and we accept this man as he is and watch him become a better person.
If, indeed, Ron Kovic was treated as shown in this movie, we as Americans and as humans should hang our heads in shame.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwich, Steve Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Vivica Fox, Abbie Hoffman and the thousands of men and women that gave their lives and their souls so I can sit here and enjoy my freedom .... thank you
Born on the Fourth of July follows the life of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) a high school athlete from a east coast working class family who's proud of God and country and when duty calls, he volunteers for the U.S. Marines. During his second tour of duty, his life changes. Can Kovic deal with his new lifestyle? Will his love for God and country be challenged by the ever changing environment of the 60's and 70's? To find out you'll have to watch Born on the Fourth of July. Born … more
Oliver Stone explored the effects of the Vietnam war with three movies: Platoon, Heaven and Earth, and Born on the Fourth of July. Most regard Platoon as the best of this "trilogy," although I always preferred this one. Platoon was gritty and realistic, but this was powerful and more emotionally driven. Until I saw this film, I didn't have much respect for Tom Cruise as an actor, but everything changed afterwards. Cruise goes through a number of critical changes throughout this film, from a patriotic … more
Set in the years between 1956 and 1976; Produced and released in 1989.
One of the best films made about the devastating impact of the Vietnam War on the body politic, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY is superbly executed by director Oliver Stone, who evokes what may be Tom Cruise's best performance as Vietnam vet Ron Kovic. Before the war starts, Kovic is a normal American kid, going to school, hanging out with his friends, and bagging groceries for pocket money. But as the Vietnam conflict begins to impact the lives of everyone around him, the patriotic teenager decides to enlist. Although his father (Raymond J. Berry) is not happy with his decision, his mother (Caroline Kava) could hardly be more enthusiastic. Once in combat, Kovic becomes disillusioned with his commanding officer (John Getz) who dismisses the fact that Kovic accidentally shot one of their own men in combat. Shortly thereafter, Kovic is paralyzed from the chest down by a bullet in the spine. He must begin a lengthy and excruciatin...