Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Poster

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Haunting and disturbing, but ultimately redemptive
DeeNine-223 October 2003
I avoided this when it came out in 1989 having seen Coming Home (1978) and not wanting to revisit the theme of paraplegic sexual dysfunction and frustration. I also didn't want to reprise the bloody horror of our involvement in the war in Vietnam that I knew Oliver Stone was going to serve up. And Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic? I just didn't think it would work. Well, my preconceptions were wrong. First of all, for those who think that Tom Cruise is just another pretty boy (which was basically my opinion), this movie sets that mistaken notion to rest. He is nothing short of brilliant in a role that is enormously demanding--physically, mentally, artistically, and emotionally. I don't see how anybody could play that role and still be the same person. Someday in his memoirs, Tom Cruise is going to talk about being Ron Kovic as directed by Oliver Stone. And second, Stone's treatment of the sex life of Viet Vets in wheelchairs is absolutely without sentimentality or silver lining. There are no rose petals and no soft pedaling. There was no Jane Fonda, as in Coming Home, to play an angel of love. Instead the high school girl friend understandably went her own way, and love became something you bought if you could afford it. And third, Stone's depiction of America--and this movie really is about America, from the 1950s to the 1970s--from the pseudo-innocence of childhood war games and 4th of July parades down Main street USA to having your guts spilled in a foreign land and your brothers-in-arms being sent home in body bags--was as indelible as black ink on white parchment. He takes us from proud moms and patriotic homilies to the shameful neglect in our Veteran's hospitals to the bloody clashes between anti-war demonstrators and the police outside convention halls where reveling conventioneers wave flags and mouth phony slogans. I have seen most of Stone's work and as far as fidelity to authentic detail and sustained concentration, this is his best. There are a thousand details that Stone got exactly right, from Dalton Trumbo's paperback novel of a paraplegic from WW I, Johnny Got His Gun, that sat on a tray near Kovic's hospital bed, to the black medic telling him that there was a more important war going on at the same time as the Vietnam war, namely the civil rights movement, to a mother throwing her son out of the house when he no longer fulfilled her trophy case vision of what her son ought to be, to Willem DaFoe's remark about what you have to do sexually when nothing in the middle moves. Also striking were some of the scenes. In particular, the confession scene at the home of the boy Kovic accidentally shot; the Mexican brothel scene of sex/love desperation, the drunken scene at the pool hall bar and the pretty girl's face he touches, and then the drunken, hate-filled rage against his mother, and of course the savage hospital scenes--these and some others were deeply moving and likely to haunt me for many years to come. Of course, as usual, Oliver Stone's political message weighed heavily upon his artistic purpose. Straight-laced conservatives will find his portrait of America one-sided and offensive and something they'd rather forget. But I imagine that the guys who fought in Vietnam and managed to get back somehow and see this movie, will find it redemptive. Certainly to watch Ron Kovic, just an ordinary Joe who believed in his country and the sentiments of John Wayne movies and comic book heroics, go from a depressed, enraged, drug-addled waste of a human being to an enlightened, focused, articulate, and ultimately triumphant spokesman for the anti-war movement, for veterans, and the disabled was wonderful to see. As Stone reminds us, Kovic really did become the hero that his misguided mother dreamed he would be. No other Vietnam war movie haunts me like this one. There is something about coming back less than whole that is worse than not coming back at all that eats away at our consciousness. And yet in the end there is here displayed the triumph of the human will and a story about how a man might find redemption in the most deplorable of circumstances. --Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
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Don't overlook the story
andrew714 February 2002
You've heard the express "can't see the forest for the trees", right? It refers to someone who gets so caught up in details, they miss the big picture. Reading other comments on IMDb regarding "Born on the Fourth of July", I think people have the opposite problem with this film. So many people seem to get caught up in talking about Vietnam, war, Nixon, America, Communism, and hippies, that they totally overlook Ron Kovic.

Ron Kovic is the center of this film. In "Platoon", war was the center, and the central character (Charlie Sheen's Chris Taylor) was merely a POV character through whose eyes we could see war. Not so in "Born on the Fourth of July". Vietnam is the setting, the context, and the backdrop. But Ron Kovic is the story.

Oliver Stone really understands a character arc. Look at Kovic's life, where it starts, where it ends. The film is the journey, how he got from A to B. It is a dramatization of a life, as opposed to an actual life, but it still rings true. It feels true. It reaches an artistic level of truth, even if some literal truths are overlooked, distorted, or rearranged. That's what Stone is trying to do. People who quibble about the facts miss the point. (This is a theme I will take up again when I review some of Stone's other films, as Stone is constantly being bashed for historical inaccuracies.) The connections from one point to the next work admirably, and the progression is completely believable, which is quite a feat for such a dramatic change of attitude (compare to "American History X", where the main character goes through a similar about face with scant motivation).

Anyway, what impresses me about this film is the honesty and respect with which Stone presents the opposing views of the film. Say what you want about Stone's political beliefs, but the argument in this film is presented in a very neutral light. It's a story about Kovic's choices, Kovic's politics, Kovic's judgments. And the anti-Vietnam beliefs he finally supports in the final act are a very natural and believable outcome of the story. This film isn't anywhere near as didactic as some people like to imagine.

The tragedy of Oliver Stone is that, because he has been so edgy, so controversial, so deliberately provocative, no one can really just sit down and, with a neutral eye, watch his films. They have become so burdened by this giant, irrelevant, political squabble. The films have been subsumed by the very issues they sought to raise. And it's a shame, with this film especially, because it is excellent.

Tom Cruise gives possibly the greatest performance of his career (I can't think of anything that tops it, though his performance in "Eyes Wide Shut", for very different reasons, is just as remarkable). The script is fantastic, taking time where it needs to take time, but not overly deliberate in its approach. It's very economical with time. It knows what each scene needs to say, and says it without any excess baggage, wasted space, or dead time. The direction is excellent, as is the editing and cinematography. The supporting cast is excellent.

But this movie would be nothing without the remarkable, heart-rending, true story of Ron Kovic. So, while we admire the technical achievement of the film, while we debate the points raised, while we enshrine or excoriate the director (as the case may be), let's not forget the story. Let's not get so fired up about Vietnam that we forget Ron Kovic. He is the heart and soul of this film.

One final note: I bristle when people call this an anti-war film. That really diminishes it, I think. It's so much more than that. It's not just saying that war is brutal, nasty, and horrific. It's saying something far more specific about a specific war, and about the effect of that war on a specific man.
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Reality hurts
anupam-satyasheel4 February 2007
When you see a war veteran campaigning against the very war in which he was willing to die once, you begin to have second thoughts about the intent behind the war. Many Americans went deep into this deliberation when veterans like Ron Kovic went on record questioning the wisdom behind US's offensive against Vietnam. Regardless of historical outcome of the war, the question will haunt USA forever -was the Vietnam War a noble and just cause. Your answer could be anything depending upon your political and ideological preferences, but the reality of thousands who lost their lives and limbs continues to hurt.

Oliver Stone's Born on Fourth of July - based on the true story of Ron Kovic - takes the audience through the triumph and trauma of a crusader who went from one side of the war debate to the other. Ron wanted to fight for his country and stop the evil force of communism dead in its tracks. He went to Vietnam to defend his nation but came back soon, injured and doomed to suffer further. In the inadequately equipped hospital, his dreamer instincts crashed against the harsh realities of political ambivalence, not for the first time though.

Over next eight years that are depicted in this masterpiece, the character of Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise with unprecedented brilliance) goes through the trauma of knowing that no one will "love him now", that even his own sibling is not on the same side of ideology, that the government had more pressing issues than taking good care of war veterans, that his countrymen did not necessarily endorse of his view point. The reality that he killed a soldier from his own army, the reality that he was the unfortunate one to butcher children and women in Vietnam, the reality that he would not be able to father a child, the reality of his realization that his government had made a wrong case for the war - it all kept gnawing at his conscience. It kept gnawing him until he opened up to speak about what was wrong about this war. Thus 'ended' the patriotic fervor of a driven person, but he continued his passion as an antiwar activist.

Born on Fourth of July may have been the story of one Ron Kovic, but there are many others whose sentiments would echo with this veteran's. At the end, there is no easy way out of this debate. War always comes with its baggage of pain, trauma and hurt. Whether Vietnam was a mistake or not - the arguments would go on forever. So would the history of people who aspired to be motivated by JFK's historical urge - Ask not what your country can do for you, See what you can do for your country - only to realize that in every war there is only one casualty - the human spirit. And this reality hurts.
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"You can take your Vietnam and shove it up your ass" Stone's 2nd best film to date
Quinoa198420 November 2001
Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July to me is better than Platoon, or at least more psychologically moving and cinematically compelling. While Platoon, Stone's totally personal account of the Vietnam war is quite accurate and superb in many ways, this film is better if only because it's not Stone's story. He takes the tale of Ron Kovic (who wrote the book with the same name as the film and scripted by him and Stone) and turns it into a blisteringly awesome and ultimately harrowing picture that has performances, scenes and direction that top Platoon (maybe it's a sign that practice makes perfect)

Anyway, the tale centers on Ron Kovic (played to a utter T by Tom Cruise) good old-boy-type of American kid who decides he wants to fight for his country in the Vietnam war even if he has to die for his country. He fights, witnesses horror and makes a tragic mistake and comes back home a crippled from the waist down veteran, who has to endure the emotional and physical pain of just being a veteran of Vietnam in a country where they are put down more than revered. All this, and more (including one of the most volcanic scenes I have ever seen between Cruise and Dafoe on a Mexico road) lead him to become a anti-war activist.

In making the big theme of the picture Kovic and his feeling on the war, Stone depicts his journey excellently by showing his desire to be in it, his confusion afterwards, his eventual hatred and then placement in being against the war all the while still being a patriot. Not only does it work as a saga/war movie, but also as a 180 degree change tale. Must, must see for all Stone fans and for anybody who wants to see what Cruise can actually do with proper direction and script.
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A Patriot's Fall From Grace
comix-man23 June 2002
What defines a great film? I believe that for a movie to be great, it should move you. It should make you think. It should make you reconsider your views and outlooks. It should make you take a closer look at its subject matter. It should draw attention to itself. Above all, you should gain some amount of enjoyment from a great film. I believe that BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY was a great film. I say this because, whether or not you agree with Ron Kovic's message, and although Oliver Stone almost ruined it with his attempts to personalize reality, the movie still made people stop and look. It literally defined the Vietnam War for a generation of Tom Cruise fans, and made many more aware of what the vets went through. The cinematography, score and fabulous acting made it a pleasure for many people to watch, if only to see how Cruise would deliver his next line.

The film grossed $70,001,698 nationwide. In 1989, when BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY was released, movie tickets cost five dollars. Therefore, over fourteen million American people went to the theater to see this movie. The number of viewers increases when you take into consideration the people who rented it on video or watched a television broadcast. It had that special something that made people think about issues that they might not have thought about before. It is lamentable that by 1989, many of the members of Generation X had paid little or no attention to the Vietnam War, even though only sixteen years had passed since the war's end. The younger generation was reminded that the war did, indeed, happen, and that the country was still being lambasted with the side effects.

The camera work was extremely effective in relaying the messages in the film. Different moods within the film were indicated by different tints in the color. Combats were filmed in red, while blue indicated sadness, and white tints where used in the dream sequences. Whether intended or not, the colors of choice also coincide with that of the American flag, which is very appropriate for the film. The film also employed a wide variety of interesting angles without becoming confusing to the viewer.

The musical score is one of the best of all time. John Williams is a genius in the music industry. His fabulous music can make a film feel the way it was intended to. He seems to simply know what sequence of notes will produce what emotions. Along with Williams' music, the score also includes some of the popular music from the time of the film's setting. For instance, AMERICAN PIE by Don McLean, MY GIRL by the Temptations, and MOONRIVER by Henry Mancini, all give the viewer who remembers the music a sense of nostalgia, taking them back to those years.

Two words sum up why the movie got the attention it did: Tom Cruise. Many critics were skeptical whether or not the pretty boy of RISKY BUSINESS and TOP GUN fame had what it took to portray a real life Vietnam veteran and make the audience believe he was that person. Fans crowded into the theaters to watch Cruise's handsome face (which was not so attractive through most of the film). Critics went to watch him blow the role. But he proved himself and went above and beyond what was expected of him in one of the most moving performances I have ever seen. He literally became Ron Kovic.

Many people were affected by BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. It had great cinematography. Its soundtrack was inspiring and beautiful, pulling out of the viewer all possible emotions. Tom Cruise's performance as Ron Kovic blew almost everyone away. In short, BORN ON THE FORTH OF JULY has what it takes to be a great film. It overcomes Stone's blatant manipulation of facts, such as the violent conflict that in the movie occurs during a republican convention, but in reality occurred during a democratic convention. Powerful and touching, it drives its point home and back again, never missing a beat.

8 out of 10 stars
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Absorbing Piece of Work
ReelCheese13 August 2006
Let's start with the good news. "Born on the Fourth of July" is an absorbing piece of work, based on a true story, about Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), a gung-ho Marine-turned-war-protester. We first meet Kovic as an all-American boy as strong in his faith as he is in his will to succeed. After high school he proudly joins the Marines, hoping he'll be shipped to Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. But the barbarities of war, including civilian casualties, friendly fire and a paralyzing bullet through the chest, gradually turn him against the conflict. Director Oliver Stone's method of telling Kovic's story over a period of several years is highly effective and convincing. Cruise is at his best as Kovic, portraying a wide range of emotions and developing apathy with the viewer. The audience feels what he feels, from confusion on the battlefield to the terror of being paralyzed from the waist down.

Now for the bad news. The picture is overly political, with Stone once again (and unnecessarily) casting Republicans as the bad guys and Democrats as the good guys (seemingly ignoring that the Dems initially sent the troops to 'Nam). The film also takes a while to build up steam, and the all-American life of the pre-Marine Kovic seems a little too perfect to be believable. Obviously a story such as this requires adequate screen time, but the 145 minutes is slightly drawn out, particularly toward the end. And although one of its central themes is the opposition to the war that greeted returning vets, the genesis and rationale of that opposition are not adequately explored.

As a whole, however, "Born of the Fourth of July" is recommended. Kovic's biography and Stone's masterful storytelling are a perfect match. It's not your typical war movie. In fact, it's not your typical movie, period.
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Harrowing but breathtaking!
The Flawed Genius18 February 2002
I remember when i first watched this film I became totally absorbed in it. I had to search out songs that I heard in the move.....I had to see other Vietnam movies again.....I had to watch other Stone movies. Its a superb film. Cruise gives the best peformance he ever will in a film as Kovic.....the golden boy who comes home paralysed and confused at the way his country is reacting to Vietnam. Some of the scenes in the film are very disturbing but the ones that affected me the deepest were not any battle scenes. When Ron comes home and looks at himself as a young boy in his wrestling kit was almost unbearable to watch. Also, the scene when he is drunk in the bar and comes out of his wheelchair had me turning away from the screen. This is a true epic film and the support cast and soundtrack are also superb. 5/5 easily.
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Not your average Vietnam film
singles0029 December 2005
"Born on the Fourth of July" had a certain impact of me. I first watched it at the cinema when I was 13. I didn't understand much about politics or war at the time. But it certainly struck some chord within myself. And then I watched that film a couple of times more in my "adult" life and, to me, it's one of Oliver Stone's very best. As well as Tom Cruise's induction into serious Hollywood stardom, forget "Cocktail" and "Top Gun". The way patriotism is depicted, it's veil of ignorance, god-family-and-the-flag...the way Vietnam 'vets' were betrayed, used...cannon-fodder for US politicians is fantastic. The beauty is that "Born on the Fourth of July" is not agonisingly political or in any way patronising.
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A moving story, told with some passion though suffering from Stone's increasingly florid and overblown style...
Nazi_Fighter_David29 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Everything that people love and detest about Oliver Stone's films is in full flower here—ambitious theme, strengthen visual style, undisguised political biases…

The film is also an important turning point in Tom Cruise's career, completing his transformation from rising star to serious actor… He received his first Academy Award nomination for his role as antiwar activist and Vietnam veteran… Though Ron Kovic's story is presented as a distillation of the political and a violent social commotion that America went through from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies... At heart, it's propaganda…

Stone begins the story as a twisted cinematic version with boys playing war in suburban woods… It's Massapequa, Long Island, 1956…

Ron Kovic grows up as a typical American white kid who believes in God, country, sports, and sex… His father's (Raymond J. Barry) leaving his forceful mother (Caroline Kava) as the dominant personality in the home… To Ron, she's a repressive slave driver who sets a standard he can never measure up to… That, in part, is why he enlists in the Marines, straight out of high school… Cut to the Cua Viet River, October 1967, where Sgt. Kovic is in his second tour…

The short vision of Vietnam that Stone presents here is even more surreal and horrifying than the violence in "Platoon." An attack on a village is a disaster, and the Marines' retreat from it is even worse for Kovic… That nightmare is settled when Kovic is seriously wounded, sent to a MASH unit, and then to a Bronx Veteran's Administration hospital...

Paralyzed from the waist down, Kovic sank into a deep depression… From that moment, the next hour or so is a steep downward spiral of self-pity, drunkenness, anger, misery, and, most important, guilt over one incident for which he cannot forgive himself… It's honest, unflattering, and ugly…

Cruise's performance is one of his best, capturing both the cocky, insecure young man and the haunted veteran…The motion picture is never boring and, until the last reel, the action moves forcefully…

If Stone had elected in the middle section to spend less time rolling about with pleasure in Mexican fleshpots and to pay more attention to Kovic's full development, he might have created the antiwar epic he was aiming for, revealing the physical and psychological costs of one of the most tragic events in history…
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The Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise Show
tfrizzell26 July 2000
"Born on the Fourth of July" is a film based on the real-life experiences of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise in an Oscar-nominated role). As a young man he feels that Vietnam is just another battleground for the United States. Even after he returns home paralyzed from the waist down, he still feels that Vietnam is important and that if you do not support the fighting then you should leave America. However, he has a change of heart and becomes an anti-war activist who realizes that one gets nothing out of combat but heartache and sorrow. Oliver Stone's screenplay is pretty strong, but it is his unrelenting direction that makes the material work throughout. Tom Cruise established himself as a high-class actor and the film stays above water because of that fact. The lack of character support does impede the progress of the film though. Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, and Kyra Sedgwick make somewhat token appearances and the impact of their screen-time is all minimal. Cruise's character dominates the film. This is both the film's strong point and weak point. All in all a strong film, but could have been so much more. 4 out of 5 stars.
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Undeniably great filmmaking ... but too manipulative for total comfort.
Wilbur-1018 February 2002
This is without doubt a very good, well-made film, exploring the effect the Vietnam War had on America and its values.

The film is based on the true-life experiences of Ron Kovic, and is scripted from his book by director Oliver Stone and Kovic himself. Tom Cruise, continuing his move away from teenage heart-throb, plays the lead character whom we follow from fresh-faced youth, to frontline soldier in Vietnam, to hospitalised patient, right through to embittered wheelchair bound protestor.

'Born on the 4th of July' revolves around Kovic to such a degree that any flaws in the characterisation would be fatal. It is some achievement that Cruise more than pulls off the part and, despite the straggly stuck-on moustache, never fails to convince. Supporting performances are universally good, without the story or script requiring them to particularly stand out.

Praise aside, the film doesn't achieve the epic status it strives for and it was no real surprise that it lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to 'Driving Miss Daisy' - in similar circumstances 'Apocalypse Now' was beaten by 'Kramer vs Kramer' 19 years earlier.

Comparisons with Coppola's masterpiece are a mismatch however - 'Apocalypse Now' is clearly the superior effort. To be fair 'Born on the 4th of July' doesn't try and cover similar ground, but herein lies the problem. I'm not sure what ground Stone and Kovic were hoping to cover and whether the methods employed played strictly by the rules.

It appears to be a hard-hitting anti-war film, criticising the very fabric of America in the late 60's. The audience is lulled into this premise, the effect heightened with disturbing scenes to make sure the point is rammed home - Vietnamese women and children are accidentally killed by US soldiers; Cruise is left lying wounded on a stretcher, given his last rites; the hospital back in America is a sordid, filthy hell-hole etc. These images are in our face, so we unwittingly embrace the film as being highly critical of the circumstances behind the story it is telling.

The problem is that 'Born on the 4th of July' isn't an anti-war film, it is a propaganda film. The story takes the angle of naive youth being drawn into horrific events because of a blind adoration for the Stars & Stripes and Mom's Apple Pie. Despite the pain which then had to be endured, by the end we are celebrating the resilience of the all-American boy who has come through with his personal values intact. The system may have been rotten around the time of Vietnam, but the people and their beliefs were to be celebrated. The concluding atmosphere is of hope and light, with a stronger America emerging from the dark in a new blaze of glory and jingoism. After seeing the film, spotty teenagers are more likely to grab those Marine enrollment applications again - this is why the film is very subtle and clever in its underlying message.

'Born on the 4th of July' hits all the right notes and is rightly acclaimed for this - I'm just not sure that the notes it aims for are as wholesome as they first appear. The excellent music by John Williams is perhaps the final giveaway - its just a little too rousing at every key scene, trying to make us react like Pavlovian dogs whenever the high notes are struck. Like everyone else I salivated at all the right times, but afterwards I found a sour taste in my mouth.
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a moving true story, put through the Oliver Stone wringer
mjneu598 November 2010
Just because Oliver Stone's heart is in the right place doesn't make this unofficial sequel to his Oscar winning 'Platoon' a good film, and in typical sledgehammer fashion he turns the moving true story of disabled, disillusioned Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic into little more than a bad soap opera. Stone co-wrote the screenplay with Kovic himself, but judging from the presentation it's clearly an Oliver Stone project: the film is visually and verbally bombastic, overwrought with clichés, dripping with sentiment, and weighed down by the director's usual battery of cosmetic effects. The combat sequences and VA hospital scenes carry moments of genuine impact, but elsewhere the film is saturated with artificial music cues, fancy camera angles, portentous slow motion effects, and more tight close-ups than the average made-for-TV movie. A measure of redemption is supplied by the high caliber acting of (surprise) Tom Cruise, but there's a limit to what even he can do: when the life of an actual person is reduced to stereotype it's difficult to stretch him back to three credible dimensions again.
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Yet One More Oliver Stone Film I Can't Tolerate
evanston_dad29 August 2008
"Born on the Fourth of July" is one of those movies that no one feels comfortable criticizing, because it's based on the true story of one man's experiences in Vietnam that left him a paraplegic, and to criticize the movie is to be unsympathetic to the story behind it. People treat Oliver Stone's other Vietnam film from the 1980s, "Platoon," the same way. Well, I'll be the first to say that I don't think either film is very good.

"Born on the Fourth of July" is about as subtle as you would expect it to be, which means it's not subtle at all. Stone is one of those directors who wants us all to feel bad about events that other people have lived through, and his way of ensuring that is to beat us over the heads with his films. It's a condescending attitude for a filmmaker to take, and it's responsible for pretty much making me shun Stone films to this day.

Star Tom Cruise had proved to the world he could act the year before in "Rain Man," and the Academy dutifully acknowledged that fact by handing him a Best Actor nomination for this film. He's actually a perfect match with Stone, as both men approach their respective crafts in the same way: aggressively and over earnestly.

Grade: C
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An ambitious film but it doesn't pull it off despite being worth a look for Cruise alone
bob the moo23 August 2004
Having had an all-American upbringing in Long Island, Ron Kovic leaves school and decides to sign up for the marines to represent his country in Vietnam and make a difference. Having seen all manner of horrors, Ron is shot and wounded in the field and finds himself in a veterans hospital where he hopes to regain the use of his legs despite the advice of doctors. When he realises he will never walk again, it starts his mental collapse and he becomes increasing disillusioned with the country and he lost his legs for.

There is nothing I dislike more than hearing uninformed people from other countries spouting about Northern Ireland so I'll be very careful about launching into any sort of preaching – I'll leave that to Stone himself. It isn't that I don't want to know more it's just that I have so much to learn about my own culture and history that who has the time for wandering off to learn about America's! Anyway, there is no need for me to get on a soapbox because this film has a darn good go at doing it by itself. The basic plot is fine and very involving, mostly because it is a real person, not just a character but it weakens its impact by playing to the simplistic side of things. For example there is no question about Ron being a clean cut, shy boy, nor is there any complexity about how badly he is treated afterwards. In some regards this is fair enough but at times I wished that Stone had not been so strong in his sense of moral outrage because it doesn't give the subject the balance and subjectivity that it deserves to be presented with.

This alone does not make it a bad film however, and it isn't ever bad – just a touch heavy handed at points but it is very difficult to watch impassively and uninvolved. The film shows Kovic's collapse and gradual disillusionment really well in a way that stands for the mental and/or physical suffering of many vets who must have come back to find that the sacrifice they had made was not even supported by the vocal section of the populace. In a way, focusing on this one man makes for a story that is intimate but also has wider significance but in another way it means the film has to go into very specific areas that don't work so well. In particular I didn't think that Ron's Mexican trip worked that well and some aspects of his life were simply forgotten about (Donna?) and I wondered why they had even bothered to include them at all. Anyway, despite these comments the film still worked for me and it is an impacting story even if Oliver Stone is not the person I would have chosen to tell the story – a very good director but 'non-partisan' is not a term that could ever be laid at his feet and at points this film gets a little sermonising as a result.

A big factor in this film working is a superb performance by Cruise who was still, at this point, a clean cut poster boy and not the one I would have imagined taking this role! In the first of two performances that I believe he should have won an Oscar for (the other being SA for Magnolia), Cruise is very brave and very strong in the lead, convincingly taking us from a patriotic young boy to a injured soldier to a broken man to a man trying to put all the pieces together. Credit to both Cruise and the editor that this is done convincingly and without too many big jumps in character. Outside of Cruise though, nobody is really given a great deal of material to work with and all their characters are pretty two-dimensional and fleeting. If anything the support cast's main impact is to keep bringing well known faces to the screen; these include Barry, Sedgwick, Whaley, Baldwin (times two!), Dale Dye, Berenger, LeGros, Bob Gunton, Vivica Fox, Mike Starr (and brother), Dafoe, Sizemore, Eagle Eye Cherry, Wayne Knight and John C McGinley. Few of these have much to do but it is impressive how many faces there are that have since gone on to become well-known actors in their own right (I personally was surprised to see McGinley's only contribution being pushing a wheelchair or Fox being on screen (topless) for about 3 seconds with only one line) but this actually takes away from the film more than it gives now.

Overall this is an impacting film but not a great one. The story has a few bits that don't really work and aren't delivered very well, while Stone's direction occasionally gets all preachy on us but, although the now all-star cast are not great, Cruise is superb and deals with the difficult role well.

A very ambitious film and not one that manages to get it all right but still a film that is hard to ignore even if the same subject has been done better in other films.
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A film that starts off well but soon turns into leftist propaganda
DevilDog60411 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of the movie is actually pretty good. A young high school athlete, Ron Kovic, proud of his country and eager to do his duty in Vietnam enlists and rises to the rank of Sergeant after a couple of tours. However, on a patrol gone haywire, he accidentally shoots another Marine, and things begin to go downhill from their. He is later shot and is sent to a Veterans hospital and learns that he will now be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. His friends and family begins to treat him differently and his own friends abandon him as they fall victim to the pro-communist rhetoric that comes with the peace movement.

This film is blatantly anti-war. Despite what others may say, this was Oliver Stone's intent. This is a man who, after September 11th said "I think the revolt of September 11th was about 'F-- you! F-- your order" Stone is a Vietnam Veteran and actually did more than one tour but said in his director's commentary in the Platoon DVD that the North Vietnamese Army were people who were fighting for their country, making it seem that they were reasonable people fighting for a truly righteous war and not as what they truly were, the sprouting tentacles of communism that was trying to spread like the plague throughout Asia. Something we were able to halt in Korea but too undermined from within by the anti-war movement to stop in Vietnam. His war films depict American servicemen as aggressive baby-killers who come from the lowest depths of society. Enough about Stone, let's address the movie's sole issue, Kovic's alienation.

When Kovic comes back to the States, his friends practically ignore what he had done and ignore his personal suffering. When I say suffering, I'm not just talking about his paralysis. I'm also talking about his inner-suffering as he sees American flags being burned and even being harassed by hippies at a parade he attends in full dress uniform. Slowly, time passes and begins to believe that the government has abandoned him and wonders around until the end of the movie when he becomes an anti-war advocate, something he abhorred at the beginning of the film.

If you want to see this movie, make sure you keep the director's intent in mind. Not all experiences in Vietnam were bad for every single Veteran. Most of the Vets I have met are proud of their service and don't regret enlisting. Do not listen to the folks here at IMDb that equate this movie with Iraq. Today, the commander-in-chief treats his servicemen with the utmost respect, something lacking 8 years prior to President Bush taking office. The government does its best to accommodate Veterans. Every now and then, things get messed and some things do get hidden by pencil-pushing bureaucrats, but it's not the black helicopter, cloak and dagger type stuff you see in the movies. Unlike what "Born on the 4th of July" implies, every servicemen is a hero because he takes on the selfless task of enduring harsh extremes and the violence of war when others are too cowardly to do the same. Pacifist inaction does not keep a country free, it's the armed servicemen that stand ready to do violence on those who threaten freedom.
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Emotion filled turmoil war film
UniqueParticle9 July 2019
Tom Cruise should've won the Oscar nod, at least the movie earned 2 others. Hard to watch this drama; it's basically a subliminal sequel to Platoon without being one. Very good raw scenes and important for veterans! I'm usually not a fan of the genre but this is damn good. Oliver Stone is a perfect director I never knew his vast knowledge about the subject having actually been through some war experiences himself many many years ago.
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Dramatization of Ron Kovic's life struggle. Impassioned and heart felt performance from Tom Cruise
joediduca23 September 2005
This is a wonderful film. It captures and encapsulates the viewer in it's depiction of one man's life torn apart in turn becoming a metaphor for a broken nation. The crippling of Ron Kovic was a mirror to the crippling of the United States of America because of the Vetinam war. A country divided and a young mind changed forever in it's on going struggle to understand the insanity and horror of war.

Tom Cruise gives the performance of his career as Ron kovic going from shy, high school all American kid to wheelchair bound Vietnam veteran. His transformation, downward spiral and consequent salvation are handled with masterful strokes by Oliver Stone. He himself a Vietnam veteran, was able to capture the disbelief and feelings of betrayal from the wounded and crippled soldiers as they returned from a war with no basis or grounds to a country that gave no hero's welcome. The fire of their rage only fueled by the apathetic Nixon administration calling upon it's "silent majority" to endorse his war tactics whilst ignoring the cry of the returning soldiers.

As a film it strays somewhat from the book it was based on and there are events depicted that were completely fabricated but overall the feeling of innocence lost come across well. The low and tight camera angles used to heighten the claustrophobia when Ron returns home in his wheelchair is a clever cinematic devise. The performance of the actors in this film are believable and true to the area the story is set in.

I urge people to read Ron Kovic's book as well as seeing this film. They are both important topical, period pieces of the late 60's, early 70's Vietnam era in America.
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A powerful emotional movie.
Jakeroo29 November 1998
It brings back vivid memories of the late 60s & early 70s - the wracking turmoil in the US over 'Nam and race. It's well done and Stone deserves the Oscar he got. Kovic's book is followed fairly well - he shared an Oscar nomination for the screenplay with Stone. They won a Golden Globe for it. Well worth watching.
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A Decent Surprise out of Oliver Stone
Merkin4pres6429 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Oliver Stone is no where near being the best director all time; that honor goes to Kubrick, Spielberg, or Hitchcock, But "Born on the Fourth of July" is way different from his other works. Some of Stone's other films, "JFK," and "Nixon," for example are very political as is "Born on the Fourth of July," but "Born on the Fourth of July" handles the nature of the politics in this film much differently and explores both points of view on the given topic as the main character switches his stance on war gradually throughout the film.

"JFK," and "Nixon," Oliver Stone's other political dramas both start out slow and start to lag in some areas, by means of slow pacing (strongly evident in "JFK,") and poor character development ("Nixon," even though America knows the real Nixon), but "Born on the Fourth of July" avoids these, which comes surprisingly to me considering it's an Oliver Stone film. The hues of color each scene was filmed in provides different feeling throughout the film instead of being left with the same feeling throughout the entire picture.

"Born on the Fourth of July" is the story of real-life activist Ron Kovic, played by Tom Cruise, based on his book and his screenplay co-written with Stone. In the 60's in the midst of the Vietnam War, as a high schooler, the teenage Ron Kovic is sucked into becoming a U.S. Marine through lies and half-truths. When the Marine Kovic gets to Vietnam, he engages in battle with Vietmanese villagers which results in him accidentally killing on of his squad. However, the U.S. military fails to realized the accidental killing by Kovic, thus adding to the lies and half-truths of the military.

It is in another battle where the real story of Ron Kovic begins to form. As he fights in another battle, Kovic signals men of his squad to come over when a bullet goes through the side of his chest severing the spinal cord and paralyzing him from waist down leaving him wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. It is in recovery in the mucky, filthy VA hospital where Kovic's strength and determination are put to the test-thorough the corruption of the doctors, and the neglect of the workers, and further injuries to his legs.

When he comes home, finds his life is completely changed, but yet, his entire family is changing their lives to help him more, but his younger brother, a teen against the war, outrages Kovic for going against his (Kovic) beliefs, saying the war is wrong. Over the course of several years, through ups and downs, Ron slowly realized the sin of war and he becomes an activist. This is just summarizing it up quickly though.

Kira Sedgewick, gives a satisfactory performance, but one that wouldn't have have made much of an impact if it weren't included. Willem DaFoe's performance is one that could have been edited out without any harm to the story line seeing as he is only in the film for what seemed like twenty minutes. It is for these unnecessary roles that don't give this movie a ten.

"Born on the Fourth of July" is movie different from other war/activist films and is one that should be appreciated for years to come.
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Yankee Doodle? More like Yankee Doofus!
marcusman4829 December 2007
As a lifelong fan of Oliver Stone films, I felt betrayed after seeing this on video for the first time. More than just about any other filmmaker/screenwriter, Stone has inspired me to attempt to write my own screenplays. His movies always display a plethora of technical wizardry, rendering the artistry of cinema in its boldest colors. Indeed, so impressive is Oliver Stone as a showman that it is all too easy to overlook that many of the stories he tells range from the mediocre to (in this case) the horrid.

Tom Cruise plays the famous Vietnam War-era Marine Ron Kovic; the man himself appears in a small role in the film. But I am surprised that Kovic would have wanted anything to do with the filmic adaptation of his book, considering how unflatteringly Cruise portrays him. As Kovic, Cruise proves to be deeply unlikable and often unintentionally funny. He (very poorly) takes a stab at Kovic's Long Island accent. He brays "Love it or leave it!" as if that were some magical mantra. By the time we see him and Willem Dafoe spitting on each other, I was laughing uncontrollably. I felt bad about laughing at what was ultimately a tragic story, but I didn't really consider it my fault. I put the blame on the director and (especially) on the actors, who look like sit-com stars being directed in an embarrassingly inept TV movie.

All of this might have been forgivable if Stone had at least put some effort into the story, but his efforts are hit-or-miss at best. The script is riddled with historical errors, from Kovic's assertion that the North Vietnamese were fighting for independence (blatantly false) to the appearance of a rock singer belting out "Rock Around the Clock" in a Fourth of July parade taking place in 1956. (Was rock 'n' roll really socially acceptable enough then to be a theme in a small-town community parade? I think not.) Then, just to prove that he managed to stay awake in history class, Stone hammers home every 1960s trope he can remember: from burning the flag to the Black Power movement to the supposed sexual repressiveness of suburban Americans, he misses no opportunity to play up the clichés. The fact that this movie won some Academy Awards tells me only that Hollywood will lavish honors on any half-baked historical epic as long as it's done with enough chutzpah.

Is there anything at all good about BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY? Well, Stone does prove once again that he knows how to paint action-packed panoramas on the screen; his scenes of riots and firefights and parades are extravagant masterpieces, at least when taken on their own terms. But they have been put at the service of a story that plays out like a twisted satiric comedy. Mark my words: you will feel ashamed to be an American after watching this, for it depicts us as profoundly delusional and dysfunctional and ultimately pathetic. It is a mystery to me why Stone, who professes to harbor so much fondness for American history, would go out of his way to squirt huge yellow gobs of macaroni at the Yankee Doodle Boy.
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One of Stone's most powerful films
claudonio10 November 2000
"Born on the Fourth of July" is Oliver Stones most powerful film behind "Platoon". People have critisized this film and Oliver Stone for taking too many liberties, none of the the critisisms have any relevance. Unless you are Ron Kovic upon who the story is based you have no right to complain. This is a great movie and Oliver Stone is a great director, period. Tom Cruise gives his best performance to date here as vietnam vet Ron Kovic, who, after fighting in Vietnam is confined to a wheelchair. In fact all the acting in this movie is phenomenal. Behind "Platoon", "JFK", and "Natural Born Killers" this is Stone's best film. I have the upmost respect for people brave enough to fight in the Vietnam war, I hope I don't upset anyone with my comments.
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Stone Never Lets The Facts Get In His Way
ccthemovieman-12 August 2007
Uh, excuse me but Democrat Lyndon Johnson is the President who escalated our involvement, troop-wise, into the Vietnam War - big-time, not Republican Richard Nixon, who wound up getting us out of there. But who does Liberal extremist filmmaker Oliver Stone pick on in the film? Nixon, the Republican, of course! Who else?

Stone, like most of his contemporaries, will never make a Democrat look bad but Nixon - oh, man, he's the Liberal's favorite target....until GWB came along. Stone, like Michael Moore, just looks the other way when it comes to unimportant little things such as "facts."

Who better to costar in an "anti-Vietnam" movie than "Hanoi" Jane Fonda? She must have done this role for free, relishing a Leftist propaganda opportunity like this!

Unlike Fonda, who at least cooled her rhetoric a decade later, Stone seemed obsessed by Vietnam for years. He was still at it in 1986 with "Platoon." He still obsesses over every Liberal cause, like a conspiracy under every rock. Sadly, like Moore, Stone has the power and finances to inflict all his prejudices on the public in the form of movies.....and people what they see on screen.

For every "Ron Kovic," the main subject of the film and a real-life guy who turned out to be a very bitter ex-soldier, there are thousands of military heroes who are proud to have represented the U.S.A. in Southeast Asia and have no regrets for doing so, but filmmakers like Stone will never do stories about them. Kovic, by the way, was wounded on his second tour. He was awarded medals for bravery. If he won a dozen medals but did not turn out to be an anti-war spokesman, you would have never heard of him. Hollywood and the media only glorify the left side of the political spectrum.

Casting Tom Cruise in the lead was a good idea. Most people can't stand him in real life, so playing a nagging whiner for much of the three hours made him easy to dislike.

Stone is a capable, knowledgeable filmmaker who isn't afraid to try different techniques (witness the unpleasant but fascinating "Natural Born Killers."). However, his films would so much better if he could just control putting so much of his own political Republican-hating agenda into every one of them, this one included.
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Strange Watching This In The Summer Of 2004
Theo Robertson8 August 2004
On the first of August 2004 BBC 2 showed two movies featuring characters from the US Marine Corp , the first one being THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA and the second being BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY - Talk about contrasts ! Unlike the John Wayne flag waver BORN ON THE FORTH OF JULY is an entirely different type of movie , it's pro soldier but very anti-war , it's graphic , disturbing , foul mouthed , unsubtle but ever so slightly uplifting at the end

Despite being made in 1989 and despite first seeing it in 1993 I can't help notice that this movie is more relevant today than it was in the 1990s . Whatever the rights and wrongs of the American led invasion of Iraq it saddens me to see coalition troops coming home in body bags , worse it saddens me more to see young servicemen return from the Middle East missing limbs , maimed for life with psychological and physical wounds that will never heal . Better to fall quickly in battle than suffer a handicap that will last 40 or 50 years is my meaningless abstract opinion on the matter , and Ron Kovic's and thousands like him injuries will never heal , a point made very well .

I also couldn't help noticing there's an election going on for US president with the democrat candidate making a big song and dance number about his service in Vietnam . Is it just me or does anyone else think the democrats should have gone for Ron Kovic ? No one can question Kovic's patriotism unlike Kerry , no one can question Kovic's courage unlike Kerry's and no one can question Kovic's supposed injuries unlike Kerry's . Okay Kerry has three purple hearts against Kovic's one but Kerry can still run for the White House while Kovic will never be able to walk which shows that the purple heart is the most unfair military decoration ever invented and should be scrapped

As for the rest of the movie Tom Cruise is an absolute revelation as Kovic , I've criticised him before notably in VANILLA SKY as an actor unable to put enough anger in to a performance but as a sometimes bitter man Cruise is superb here . Stone's direction is also good though it's by no means his best work ( That would be PLATOON ) and the story isn't always as focused as it should be but with the exception of JFK it's better than any of the over directed nonsense he's made since

Seven out of ten
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A strong libel against war
valadas14 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Is there any just war? A question that can be present in this movie. A war fought 20,000 kms away from one's country might be patriotic? A war fought only for political, economic or ideological reasons can be just? An American young man is deeply patriotic and imbued with all the conventional values concerning war, joins voluntarily the Marine Force and goes to Vietnam as a sergeant. After being wounded in combat he becomes quadriplegic and returns home on a wheelchair after having spent some time in a hospital for veterans where conditions are appallingly bad even with rats running freely around. Anyway he is still defending those patriotic conventional values for what he thinks he had fought in war. However after meeting a girl whom he knew in their youth and whom he loved and seeing her being a member of an activist group against American fighting in Vietnam and seeing the police charging them violently he begins to take conscience of the real injustice of that war. After several vicissitudes of moral degradation that include a familiar conflict at home, alcoholism and an exile to a home for veterans in Mexico by a village where there is an atmosphere of alcohol, gambling and prostitution, he abandons all this and returns to USA where he joins the activist movement against war and publishes a book with his autobiography. Everything is narrated with great image and dialogue realism. The only flaw in my opinion is the not so good performance of Tom Cruise whom I never considered a very good actor and seems not very authentic, abusing some times of histrionic hysterism. Anyway a movie that can be considered a strong libel not only against the Vietnam war but against all wars.
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4th of July - Peace is just a word
albertovico4 July 2005
Annie Lennox, an European artist, sang "Peace is just a word".

The best movie by Tom Cruise, one of the best on America's history.

A few points: 1) This movie shows how Americans were brainwashed by politics in the early '60s. 2) It also shows how people can react to a nonsense war in the late '60s and early '70s. In a few years Americans lost their faith in all powers: politics, religion and people victims just of an "image" war, with no sense. 3) Europe entered no wars after 1948, but the US people still love to look at CNN for the newest war, just as watching a soap opera. Maybe most of them don't really realize it's real, with real people and children dying. 4) Nietsche said: "There is no war without a reason" and added "The reason is always the financial interest of a powerful political minority". Of course the IRAQ war is an exception, as the US want to "export democracy", but actually I've never ever seen a single weapon of mass destruction. 5) The victims are always American and other nations dead people or people whose life will never be the same, for heavy wounds and psychological turmoil, without assistance, all life long. 6) This movie shows the US as the worst 3rd World country, when Bronx hospital is portrayed as a Bangladesh public hospital, where "funds are not enough for Vietnam" and people who "served the country" are left there to die, without any kind of assistance. 7) The main message is: "Who cares about them" and there is even a Republicn convention sending Vietnam Veterans to jail, just because they dared to express their opinion. 8) Today the US does exactly the same wars, this time for the sake of oil and arms usage. It's a shame this time people do not protest, where has the end of '60s protest spirit gone? . Instead they voted this mentally retarded president not only once but TWICE. 9) In Italy, where I live, the Constitution says "Italy repudiates war", so this is why we did not take part to the massacre of children, women and citizens, even though the US started without the authorization of the United Nations. 10) Germany, France, Spain and all other EU countries did never take part to your wars, maybe believing "peace is not just a word". 11) A film that makes you think, about the US brainwashing in "serving the country" (or maybe just serving the powerful lobbies) and about the myth of "the land of the free" where people are treated worse than animals in the Bronx Hospital after they "served" their country. 12) I would recommend watching "Sacco and Vanzetti" to see how the US Courts are able to kill people just for their ideas... is this the land of the free?

I hope this movie will make you think beyond the TV brainwashing and that any war needs to be contrasted just like we do in Europe. Don't let somebody kill yourself, for the sake of Bush's dirty business and Huge Bank Account in Switzerland.

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