Born on the Fourth of July

  • Film
  • War films
Broadening the sweep of Platoon, this is a more ambitious, accomplished film about Vietnam, but not because it treads the now familiar path from innocence to enlightenment. Rather, its strength stems from the intense depiction of a man stripped of dignity and sexuality as a result of appalling injuries. Based on the experiences of veteran Ron Kovic (who co-scripted, with Stone, this adaptation of his book), the film encompasses two decades. From an upright, Catholic background, Kovic (Cruise) emerges ready to kill Commies. After being wounded, he ends up in the veterans' hospital back home - a hellish place short on funds and sentiment. Starting the slow process of re-education, from the confines of a wheelchair he begins active participation in the anti-war movement. Cruise's performance is a powerful, credible interpretation; but Stone can't resist sermonising, particularly when he overplays Kovic's tortured attempts at catharsis after he accidentally shoots a fellow soldier. Idyllic childhood scenes signpost all too clearly the ensuing nightmare. But things progressively improve, the sheer scope of the action accomodating the more vigorous approach applied to later sequences. A compelling, elegiac film, particularly encouraging after the simplified morality of Platoon.

Release details

Duration: 144 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Oliver Stone
Screenwriter: Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic
Cast: Tom Cruise
Kyra Sedgwick
Raymond J Barry
Willem Dafoe
Jerry Levine
Frank Whaley
Caroline Kava
Tom Berenger
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