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Plot: The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Written by Murray Chapman Runtime: 145 min Release Date: 05 Jan 1990
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Haunting and disturbing, but ultimately redemptive (by DeeNine-2)
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 <more>
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!"
"You can take your Vietnam and shove it up your ass" Stone's 2nd best film to date (by Quinoa1984)
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 <more>
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.
I knew someone who knew Ron Kovic. (by lee_eisenberg)
Oliver Stone - who appears briefly as a TV interviewer - had already focused on the Vietnam War with "Platoon", but he did an even better job with "Born on the Fourth of July". Telling the story of Ron Kovic Tom Cruise , an all-American boy turned anti-war activist, Stone brings political issues to the screen once again. The movie specifically chronicles how Kovic grew up playing baseball and going to church and even supported the war at first , but totally changed after he saw what his government was doing in Vietnam and lost the use of his legs. This may have been Tom <more>
Cruise's best role ever; since then, his roles have gotten kinda silly.On a side note, Stew Albert - who guided me with my bar mitzvah - knew Ron Kovic. In fact, Stew's good friend Abbie Hoffman appears in the movie.
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 <more>
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.
"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", <more>
"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.
Undeniably great filmmaking ... but too manipulative for total comfort. (by Wilbur-10)
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 <more>
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.
A moving story, told with some passion though suffering from Stone's increasingly florid and overblown style... (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
Everything that people love and detest about Oliver Stone's films is in full flower hereambitious 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, <more>
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
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. <more>
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
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 <more>
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.