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USA 1989
Directed by
Oliver Stone
144 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Born On The Fourth Of July

Oliver Stone who had seen active duty in America's most disastrous war delivers a fact-based account of a committed Vietnam vet, Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise),who lost the use of both his legs during the war eventually waking up to the error of his ways to become a prominent anti-war protestor. It takes us into a well-mined era (including Stone’s own Platoon,1986 and particularly Hal Ashby's Coming Home 1978, which dealt with similar subject matter).

Although the combat scenes don't look remotely like Vietnam (the Philippines are the usual stand-in but even that seems unlikely here) the domestic production design is impressive and the film has a convincing lead performance from Cruise in his first serious dramatic performance

Stone tells Kovic’s story (the latter is credited as co-screenwriter with Stone) from his inculcation with Catholic anti-communism in his All-American childhood through to his being paralyzed in combat and his shoddy repatriation, the final hour or so of the film being given over to Kovic’s born-again conversion to an anti-war position (he continued to be an activist against America”s involvement in the Persian Gulf).

More effective as a passionate anti-war statement than a drama Kovic is served well although a plot thread involving his callow crush on his high school sweet-heart (played by an improbably gorgeous Kyra Sedgwick) simply evaporates, Stone nevertheless won an Oscar for Best Director (Best Picture went to Driving Miss Daisy) and the film also picked up Best Editing.




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