Theodore is an autistic film geek lover who loves the art of film and is not ashamed of it.
Based on the 1976 autobiography of the same name, Born on the Fourth of July follows Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), a Vietnam war veteran turned anti-war activist. Kovic joins the United States Marine Corps to fulfill his patriotic duty of serving his country. But after becoming paralyzed in his second tour, he returns home, only to feel that the America he once fought for has betrayed him. He decides to become an anti-war and human rights activist to bring awareness to struggling veterans who fought in Vietnam.
Oliver Stone returns to Vietnam to tell a different story of the war, only this time it's about a real-life veteran who has been scarred by the experiences of fighting there. And it's more heartbreaking and emotional than Stone's Platoon.
While Platoon was about a group of soldiers battling the horrors during Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July is about what happens when a soldier returns home from the battlefield.
Story and Themes
Despite this being based on an autobiography, the story still holds up after 32 years. But what makes the film resonate today is its theme.
A tale about a Vietnam veteran struggling in a society that wants to forget about the war is a big challenge to bring to the big screen. This is because screenwriters often feel the need to sugarcoat everything for the sake of an entertaining movie. But Stone and Kovic (co-writing the screenplay based on his book) make no efforts to do that.
This movie goes beyond the theme of "war is bad" and explores the false ideal of a patriotic war. It's about how our society viewed war during that time and the cynicism of not supporting the veterans who have fought there. It's a theme that resonated with people during its release, and it continues to do so to this very day.
Tom Cruise has never been better than he is in this movie. It's a role that requires a lot of emotion and range for an actor of his caliber. If he doesn't work, then the movie doesn't work. Thankfully, he commits to the role beautifully.
I love the moment where he continues to fight on the battlefield. Despite him being shot in the leg, Kovic continues to battle through the enemy as if it's his last stand. It's an incredible moment in the film and really shows Cruise's range as an actor.
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I think this is one of Cruise's best performances in years. A lot of people think that Magnolia (1999) is his best performance. I agree that he was great in that movie, but to me, Born on the Fourth of July is the performance that made him legendary.
It's also an amazingly well-made movie. Oliver Stone filmed this with a scope aspect ratio of 2.39:1 with maxim width, and it shows because this movie feels cinematic. Stone put it to good use by using long camera takes to make the story more epic. He's clearly in control of this film.
It's centrally more dynamic visually in terms of cinematography. Robert Richardson ups his game in this movie.
And how can you not forget about the legendary score by John Williams?
One Minor Complaint
If there's one complaint I have with the movie, it would be its length. It clocks in with a run time of two hours and twenty-four minutes. There are points where it began to drag for me, but thankfully the film's editing keeps it going with its pace.
Born on the Fourth of July is one of my favorite movies.
It's a long film, but it is emotionally powerful with its themes and story. With a committed performance by Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone's competent direction, this movie is a work of art.
I'm giving this movie 4.9 out of 5 stars.