Born on the Fourth of July - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Born on the Fourth of July Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2012
Born on the Fourth of July is a solid, well acted and brilliantly directed Anti war film. Based on the true story of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who due to a wound, became paralyzed. Through years of struggle, Kovic finally was able to get his life back on track and become an anti war activist along the way. Tom Cruise gives a great performance as Kovic. This is a stunning film that is an eye opening viewing, and Oliver Stone did a great job here. This is one of his finest films, and this is a great departure from his previous Vietnam War film, Platoon, which is hands down Stone's greatest work. However with this film, he crafts a masterful film yet again, and captures a totally different side of the Vietnam War struggle, in part the struggle that many Vietnam War veterans had to endure when coming home from the war. This is a great film with a powerful story, and you see it through Ron Kovic's eyes as he became disillusioned afterwards, and how he dealt with it, and ultimately redeemed himself by becoming a voice for the anti war movement. The performances are great and the story is enthralling and this is a must see for even war film fans. This is a superb film that is among Stone's strongest directorial efforts. Tom Cruise is terrific in the part, and this is actually one of many of his best performances. This is a superb film that is powerful and thought provoking. With a great cast and a captivating story, Born on the Fourth of July is a must see for film fans.
Super Reviewer
½ August 1, 2006
This is the second film in Oliver Stone's trilogy about the Vietnam War, and for this one, he decided to adapt (along with Ron Kovic), Kovic's autobiography about his life, and how he went from proud and patriotic all-American to crippled war veteran who became a fervent anti-war protestor. And you know what? This film really is terrific. Yes, it has IMPORTANT stamped all over it, and sure, it is emotionally manipulative and takes a very "damned if you do, damned if you don't" stance towards the experiences of veterans, but we need stuff like this, and it is a very welcome voice in the debate about the experiences of Vietnam veterans and how one's whole life can be shattered and changed once they experience unimaginable horrors and return home to a country that changed so drastically in just a short amount of time.

This is all very fascinating stuff, and, despite the polemic nature of things, it is well done, and even though a bias is present, all sides do get some sort of representation, so the film isn't quite on the same level as something by Michael Moore for example.

Kovic was and is a very proud American, and yes, the film proves you can still be very patriotic even if you're anti-war. It's really a good blend of character study and philosophy, and that wasn't something I was expecting. It's also not nearly as heavy handed as I was expecting, though it is very heavy with the sentimentality, especially where John Williams's (solid) score and the cinematography (everything is shot in filters of either red, white, or blue depending on the emotional level or context of things) are concerned.

The cast that Stone rounded up is quite notable too. There's tons of recognizable names present, even if many of them have no more than just a few moments or even a couple of lines of dialogue. The big roles are cast wonderfully though, featuring the likes of Kyra Sedgwick, Willem Dafoe, Raymond J. Barry, and Tom Cruise in the lead as Kovic. This was the first time Cruise tried for something dramatic, serious, and very challenging. Not only did he pull it off, but this is still one of his all time best performances. You know, the kind which prove he really can act.

There's lots of great moments throughout, and they all are at different emotional levels. Two that really stick out for me however, are scenes that are dramatic (and are supposed to be), but still managed to unintentionally be hilarious as well. Those two scenes are the argument/breakdown where Ron screams profanities and the word penis loudly at his mother while drunk, and the wheelchair fight between Cruise and Dafoe. I felt kinda bad laughing, but I really just couldn't help it.

No matter your opinions on Cruise, Stone, or the subject matter, you really should give this one a watch. It is designed to provoke all sorts of reactions, and though it is unapologetic in its presentation, it is a worthy and remarkable film.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2012
This is some fine directing right here from Mr. Political Subject himself. This movie uses one of the oldest tricks in the book for dramatic effect....Slowmotion....and it does it really well. Tom does possibly his best role here? And it's a very interesting story. Willem Dafoe makes a brief but oscar worthy apperence. There are a lot of very beautiful shoots in this movie. Escpecially that first shoot after we cut to the war. That is just iconic. This movies story draws many similarities to The Deer Hunter but it's still very diffrent and uniqe. A really good movie and a great work by Tom Cruise
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2007
Cruise pulls out all the stops in his visceral portrayal of a guy who goes from trusting and unthinking patriot to wounded and wondering casualty of the Vietnam War. Certainly one of the very best of this genre, it's core point simply a question : when has blind obedience ever been an American ideal?
Super Reviewer
May 19, 2007
A biopic based on the life of Ron Kovic, an idealistic poster boy for the American dream who volunteered for Vietnam only to return home to a different world both traumatized and paralysed. I've never been a big fan of Tom Cruise, but he gives the performance of his career as the Vietnam vet who became the spokesman of a disenfranchised generation. Being based upon Kovic's own book the film is a very personal journey and as such is a little episodic, often resembling one of those "triumph of courage" daytime telemovies rather than the overt politicism of many of Stone's other films of the time. It also limits his Vietnam experiences to the bare minimum which means that it lacks both the context and outright anger of Salvador and the emotional drama of Platoon leaving something of a half way house between the two. The supporting cast also don't get much of a look in so it feels a little superficial but it is an intelligent, well made film carried by a strong central performance. It does lack the power of Stone's best work however.
Super Reviewer
December 3, 2009
This is without a doubt my favorite Oliver Stone movie. It has all of the passion and and emotional depth in ten minutes that most Vietnam movies try to attain for 2 hours. Tom Cruise played an amazing Ron Kovic, you were able to see the entire breakdown and redemption of his character. I loved the message of the movie, it wasn't so much about action and physical damage of the war. It was about the complete destruction of hope for so many individuals. It's so heartbreaking to see such a good person have to suffer through so much.
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2009
Some movies act like a microcosm of history. They take one little part of an enormous picture and use it to show how the little piece of the big picture affected each other.

With Born on the Fourth of July Oliver Stone shows us how gung-ho America was going into the Vietnam war and how that conflict affected millions of lives by looking at one life in that war: Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise). The film opens with the youngster Kovic watching a Fourth of July parade in the 1950's that reeks of apple pie and Eisenhower. Kids played soldier in the woods to mimic their dads and uncles stories from Europe in the decade before. Jump ahead to Kovic near graduation and deciding to join the Marines. He is still gung ho and ready to die for his country in a war in Vietnam that will be "over before we get there". He goes to Vietnam where two tragic events change his life forever in which one of them is taking a NVA bullet that renders him paralyzed from the chest down. He returns to a different America, polarized by the war and finds himself slowly seeing that the war wasn't as honorable as he thought it was.

Tom Cruise finally got some respect from this film, proving that he could be more than the guy in his underwear dancing to Bob Seger or flying airplanes. By his return home he is a beaten man and it shows in his appearance. To me, this is Tom Cruise's first great performance. The remainder of the film from his return is mainly Stone showing Kovic's reaction to the turmoil that was the late '60's and the early '70's. The film shouts at us that this is how a million people reacted to it by looking at this one, lone man. It's a fascinating journey that Stone takes us on with ups and downs and the resentments and triumphs that go along with it. A terrific biopic.
Super Reviewer
June 25, 2008
Actually the story was pretty good, a story about a Vietnam veteran soldier because of the war.. Tom Cruise brilliantly portrait Ron Kovic, the young soldier with great ambition for the Vietnam war but yet he got wound in the war so he become a Vietnam veteran soldier in such a young age... This movie really describes how awful the war is... But, since I watched the cut version of this movie, so I'm not too understand with this movie... Even that, Tom Cruise shows his great talent at that time... And now, he should be disappointed knowing in his success as a celebrity, he didn't get an Oscar for his acting..
Super Reviewer
May 6, 2008
This movie based on a true story,was the best film. It was shocking and very sad,and was wonderfully made!!!
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2007
It certainly seems like this is a film that got lost in the shuffle - overshadowed by more popular films about Vietnam, such as Platoon (also done by Oliver Stone) or Full Metal Jacket or even The Deer Hunter. It's interesting because like The Deer Hunter (which is also excellent), Born On The Fourth Of July focuses not on the events of the war itself but on the after-effects. I had wanted to see it for the longest time mainly because it's one of Tom Cruise's early roles, and I love Tom. It's also in my opinion his first truly great, or major role. Though he had good roles in The Color Of Money and Rain Man before this, it's Born where he really gets to show his chops as an actor for the first time. The film, based on the true biography of the main character, Ron Kovic (who was involved in the making of the film based on his book), is definitely an ambitious one, spanning much of the very involved life of Mr. Kovic and featuring a large ensemble cast. Stone, as he is able to do most of the time, handles the ambitious project very well. However, the film largely rests of the shoulders of Cruise, and he was obviously very up to the challenge, even this early in his career. This is one of the films that is just so vast it's almost hard to critique - but I know that I enjoyed it very much, and it featured some awesome surprises such as Willem Dafoe's role. Basically you have to see this if you enjoy Vietnam films or Oliver Stone or Tom Cruise or any combination thereof.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2006
Ron Kovic: People say that if you don't love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.

Tom Cruise stars as Ron Kovic in the second of director Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy. Stone worked with the real Ron Kovic in order to try and capture what happened in his life, from his early childhood, through his tour in Vietnam, and up to the eventual outcome surrounding his injury and what people thought about the war when he came back home.

The movie starts off by showing us Kovic in his home town, desiring to become a marine and be a war hero like his father and the other WWII vets that he sees.

We then shift to Vietnam, where Kovic sees and is a part of things that shock and hurt him. He is also shot, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

This leads to the bulk of the film, which is better than what came before it. Kovic goes back home to a changed country. People take sides as to how effective this war really is and what to think about the government.

Kovic also goes through mental anguish involving a number of things including what it means to be seen as a war hero, the loss of his legs, what America thinks of him, how he should think of America, and so on.

He goes through a tough odyssey of sorts involving the things he is forced to deal with concerning his life and family, and what to do next.

Cruise is very good in this role, probably among his best work as an actor. What would now easily be considered Oscar bait, playing a war hero paraplegic, is a testament to how good someone has to be to pull it off. His performance in this movie is probably overshadowed by Gary Sinese a few years later as Lt. Dan in Forest Gump, as that is probably more of a memorable film, but that shouldn't take away from how good Cruise is.

There is also a good supporting cast that includes Raymond J. Barry as Kovic's father, Kyra Sedgwick as the girl he left behind, a number of people that were all in Platoon, including Willem Dafoe, who comes in late in the film to spice things up.

The score of this movie, which I picked up pretty quickly as being from John Williams fits well with the themes of this movie. This goes with the style of the film visually as well. There are a lot of neat 'Stone' moments that one can recognize from the way they are setup.

Stone, always being recognized for his editing style, makes that apparent here again for having a picture that flows well enough and moves into each scene appropriately.

While verging on too depressing at times, mixed with enough profanity to hold anyone over for a week, this is a good story with a great performance from Cruise.

Ron Kovic: Sometimes, Stevie, I think people, they know you're back from Vietnam, and their face - changes: the eyes, the voice, the way they look at you, you know.
Steve Boyer: I know what you mean, Ronnie, but people here - they don't give a shit about the war! Yeah! To them it's just a million miles away. It's all bullshit, anyway. I mean, the government sold us a bill of goods and we bought it, and got the shit kicked out of us, and for what, huh?
Ron Kovic: What do you mean, "we," Stevie? You were in college, man.
Super Reviewer
½ August 5, 2007
Movie about aftermath of war for Vietnam veterans.
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2007
Movie is great. It was honestly hard for me to watch at times, because of the realness of it. Really shows how wars effect people, especially the men who are serving, and if anyone has not seen this movie, try too find it and watch it! It's better then the majority of war movies, as of late.
Super Reviewer
March 13, 2007
Tom Cruise makes a remarkably good performance in this true story of Vietnam voluntter Ron Kovic, wounded in battle and confined to a wheelchair. This is a powerful, heartfelt scream of rage and despair, both shocking and human, in director Oliver Stone's best style since Platoon.
Super Reviewer
April 21, 2013
Director Oliver Stone continues his exploration of Vietnam in the biopic Born on the Fourth of July. Based on an autobiography the story follows Ron Kovic, who enlisted in the Marines to fight in Vietnam, but is paralyzed during a firefight and comes home to an America that he doesn't understand. Starring Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe, and Stephen Baldwin, the cast is quite formidable. While Cruise delivers an impressive performance, the script fails film and has trouble capturing the transformation of Kovic from a jingoistic veteran to a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Born on the Fourth of July has some compelling and dramatic character moments, but it doesn't come together as a cohesive story.
Super Reviewer
June 12, 2012
Born on the Fourth of July is probably my favorite Oliver Stone film, I mean this has so mich to say about the Vietnam war and its effects on a soldier. Ron Kolvich is a man who I would consider a hero, I mean it tales real bravery to do some things he did in this film and this film just really puts us in his situation and really makes the audience think. Some people have called this an apology to Vietnam, and I agree that this really does make Americans truly think more about the effects of war. People who have never been in the war have a lot to say about something they don't know, but a veteran who has seen true horrors is the person who knows more about the war than anyone, and that is one of the things I learned from this film. Tom Cruise is brilliant and plays one of the best roles in his career, I mean the scene where he tells William Dafoe about his experiences in Vietnam and watching the two argue just made left me stunned and showed what a talented actor both of them are. This film really showed me that I should not be saying who is right or wrong in a war because the people who truly feel the effects of it are the soldiers who dedicate their lives for their country. Oliver Stone has made his masterpiece here I believe, and I think Platoon is also a work of genius, but I think I connected more with this films message. This is not a war film, its and anti-war film and shows us the true horrors through one real life soldier and how his happy and great life was never the same as soon as he joined the war, and this was just an overall masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
February 8, 2007
This movie left me shaken and choked up! It pays homage to The Best Years of Our Lives and perhaps some other films about vets returning home. But specifically Best Years, I think, with the shot of Ron Kovic after he has become paralyzed and finally returns to his parents' house staring at his high school wrestling picture in his old room. Harold Russell in Best Years does the exact same thing becoming lost in the old picture from his high school athletics career when he felt he was a whole person. Both of these movies deal with men who have lost some part of themselves and have to discover how to gain strength and courage and acceptance to be a whole man again. By exploring Ron's youth, Born on the Fourth of July shows that the story is really about pressure and failure and confusion and how we deal with those things. This is an epic story with a tremendous supporting cast. It's about a boy who becomes a soldier, a soldier who becomes paralyzed, a paraplegic who becomes an outcast all the while searching for his humanity!! Sometimes it takes an outcast to speak the truth, someone who has been paralyzed to really stand for something, a soldier to fight for life, and of course it's the natural progression of things for a boy to triumphantly become a man!
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2012
I must admit that I did find myself a little bit worried that Oliver Stone wouldn't be able to handle something with this much subtlety, considering all of the crazy, super-stylish films that he made before this, like the one about corruption within Wall Street stocks, and, especially, the ones that he did after this, like the one about the JFK assassination conspiracy, or the one about Richard Nixon, or the one about Alexander the Great, or, of course, the one about football. ...Huh, not even I can tell if I'm being sarcastic, because those films were surprisingly a little bit nutty and overstylized, though I suppose that's what happens when you have films dealing with controversial subjects being written and directed by a drug-using Vietnam veteran. Hey, say what you will about Stone, but as he taught us, stylish and controversial makes for good Oscar bait, though if you want a surefire win, your better bet is a film about an undereducated but good-hearted black man who befriends and changes the life of an old, wealthy white woman in the South, during pre-Civil Rights. With something like "Driving Miss Daisy" getting an Oscar push, a film like this, even with its subject matter, would be lucky to even be remembered when the Oscars started bait shopping at the end of '89, and it came out in December, though I think the reason why this film made many a shortlist come Oscar time is because even the Oscars knew that "Driving Miss Daisy", while pretty decent, wasn't terribly upstanding. I mean, they still had to give the Oscar, because, again it was about an undereducated but good-hearted black man who befriends and changes the life of an old, wealthy white woman in the South, during pre-Civil Rights, though they probably weren't terribly proud of it. They couldn't be any less proud about that film sweeping the Awards than me, because although I liked "Driving Miss Daisy", if any film deserved to win Best Picture, then it was this film. Oh no, this film isn't terribly upstanding either, it's just that it was going up against "Field of Dreams" (Which I still liked), "My Left Foot" (Which I still liked) and "Bore Me to Death Poets Society" (I haven't completely seen it, but I still liked the bits and pieces that I've seen), and where those films were decent (Or at least what bits that I've seen from "Bore Me to-I mean "Dead Poets Society" are just decent), this film is not simply genuinely good, but extremely good, though still no knockout, and for a few reasons.

As with nearly every (Yeah, sure, "nearly") Oliver Stone film, things get to be overbearing, with style that's not quite as pronounced as it is in other Stone films, to where it will sometimes get stressed to the point of knocking you out of the resonance (By this time, Stone was about five years and an oil drum of acid away from "Natural Born Killers"), yet remains bound to become a little bit too much, and after a while, you're kind of exhausted, partially because the storytelling is faithful to the style's kind of obviousness. This is one of your more subtle Oliver Stone efforts, but come on, it's still Oliver Stone, and his ambitions of creating an emotionally intense tribute to the fighters, sufferers and dyers of 'Nam, as well as Ron Kovic himself, is all too palpable. During the Vietnam segment and subsequent hosiptal segment, brutality is overemphasized through overwhelmingly frenetic noise, broken up by, if not married with the occasional overly unsubtle disturbing image, and while there's still enough inspiration in Stone's atmosphere setting to keep this film's more brutal segments from going full-on "Saving Private Ryan", where it's superfluous to the point of being unintelligent and offensive (For the record, I still love "Saving Private Ryan" much more than this film, but come on Steve, I don't need to see someone trying to hold his guts in while he's crying for his mama), it's still a bit too much for you to get a terribly human feel for the horrors that people like Stone and, especially, Kovic faced. Outside of the battlefield and hospitals, the resonance goes tainted by a degree of sentimentality, both before and, certainly, after Kovic's time in 'Nam, that ranges from passable to fairly glaring. I wouldn't say that the obviousness of the emotion crushes Stone's resonance, though with the acts of sentimentality being so clear, as well as even familiar, it decidedly hurts it. Were Oliver Stone less, well, Oliver Stone in his execution of this respectably inspired project, it would have rung more true and ultimately stood as a powerhouse portrait on war and people's views, both respectful and disrespectful, on such a sensitive subject. However, the overwhelmingness of this film only bumps its effectiveness down a few notches from heart-wrenchingly piercing, and while that is enough to keep this film from being bang-pow solid, the final product has enough juice in it to stand as utterly inspiring; it's certainly aesthetically commendable.

By 1989, Robert Richardson was still reasonably new to the scene, so he hadn't yet mastered his, well, masterful cinematography skills, though he was close enough in the development of his own skill, as well as his now-notoriously remarkably comfortable collaborative relationship with Oliver Stone's tastes in style for this film to really catch your eye. Sure, Stone may exploit moments in Richardson's work to supplement the aforementioned occasional piece of overstylizing, yet on the whole, Richardson gives the film a lively grace, as well as a gripping grit that's both visually handsome and striking to the atmosphere, really powering the resonance, which wouldn't be as powerful as it is were it not for the man who admittedly kept it from being more powerful. The overambition, sentimentality and overall unsubtlty taint the effectiveness within Stone's storytelling, yet on the whole, the inspiration in Stone's direction works much more to a remarkable effect than detrimental, because whether he's capturing the pain in Ron Kovic's story or the very controversy-ridden yet still, in some spots, reasonably charmingly simple era (with the help a really good soundtrack), Stone plants you into the world and takes you through an experience that is quite decidedly bumpy, yet ultimately very rewarding. This story and its subject matter is surprisingly unique and obviously worthy, and while Stone doesn't always work his telling of such a powerful story with extreme ease, he still manages to draw much depth and humanity from both the story itself and its message, making it feel relevant and stand as immensely provocative, which of course makes the emotional resonace that does transcend the unsubtlties all the more intense. Stone's impassioned (As many times as I've heard that word used in reviews of this film, I may as well as join the craze) direction is still a little too spotty for this film to be full-on excellent, yet on the whole, it really brings it to life, though Stone doesn't doesn't take through such a compelling experience alone. Whether it be Raymond Barry's and Caroline Kava's emotion as Kovic's confused and concerned parents, or Frank Whaley's subtle anguish as a fellow veteran who had seen more than he'd care to mention, or a young Kyra Sedgwick's, well, not really having too much do other than be very pretty, many a performer grips your attention and really wins your investment, yet it's Tom Cruise who really steals the show. Ron Kovic is initially ambitious, yet upon heading into the horrors of war, he becomes a broken and disturbed man who returns home never to be the same, but instead a man with his eyes open to the flaws of the ignorant and his heart set on telling the world his tale, and it's a transformation that Cruise portrays with crushing intensity, layers, emotion and overall passion, capturing both the anguish and spirit within Kovic to a transformative degree, and it really takes your breath away to see Cruise effortlessly and phenomenally carry this character study, standing up there with Stone as one of the key components to this film's emerging both a riveting acting piece for Cruise and ultimately satisfying drama, by its own right.

Bottom line, the film gets to be rather overwhelming, both stylistically and emotionally, being tainted by the overambition, sentimentality and even a few of the conventions that land a brutal blow to the subtlty within the depth of the film, thus leaving the final product to fall short of full-on excellent, though not fall all that far, as the film catches your eye with Robert Richardson's typically handsome cinemtography and your investment with Oliver Stone's, albeit flawed, but generally commendably inspired direction, which gives you a genuine, immersive and, of course, provocative feel for this world and Kovic's story, and with a strong cast - headed by a remarkably emotional, layered and transformative Tom Cruise - serving as icing on the cake, "Born on the Fourth of July" ultimately stands as a moving and thought-provoking dramatisation of the heartbreaking story of Ron Kovic and the still fairly relevant discussion on what goes unrealized by those off of the battlefield and how the battlefield affects those who return from it.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
September 22, 2007
Yeah yeah yeah Stone. We get it. Vietnam bad! War heroes good! I just can't seem to take Tom Cruise seriously in anything. Have you really seen a Tom Cruise film and forget even for one teeny tiny moment that he is the character he is playing and not..Tom Cruise?? Thought not.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2010
Oliver Stone's relentlessly realistic true-life saga of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who joined the Marine Corps as a gung-ho recruit in the 1960s. During his tours in Vietnam, Kovic witnesses a fellow officer kill civilians, accidentally shoots and kills another soldier, and eventually finds himself paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life after being shot in the battlefield. Kovic then finds himself disillusioned by the public's treatment of veterans and is abhorred by the minimal care provided to him by the government he served for so long. This brilliant film focuses less on the horrors of war and more on the post-war horrors that our veterans were forced to go through here at home. Cruise earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, for his stunning tour-de-force turn as Kovic, which is the finest dramatic performance of his career. This film shows the painful and horrific ordeal of physical and mental rehabilitation which Kovic had to endure, before the entire dehumanizing experience transformed him into an anti-war activist. Olivier Stone won an Academy Award for his meticulous direction, he also wrote the engrossing screenplay with Ron Kovic. An exquisite original score by John Williams, with awesome cinematography by Robert Richardson, and exceptional supporting performances by Willem Dafoe, Raymond J. Barry, Carloline Kava, Krya Sedgwick, Frank Whaley, Stephen Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Michael Wincott, Wayne Knight, and Tom Sizemore. But its Tom Cruise's extraordinarily powerful heartfelt performance that totally dominates this motion picture. An unforgettable cinematic experience that is a real eye opener. Highly Recommended.
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