Customer Review

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oliver Stone grinds his axe fine, January 30, 2005
This review is from: Born on the Fourth of July (Special Edition) (DVD)
I didn't want to like this movie. I'm usually resistant to any film whose director grinds an ax so relentlessly as Oliver Stone has been known to, and never so obviously as with this film. But I recently ran across the NY Times list of 1000 best films, and "Born On the Fourth of July" is listed there. While any such list is naturally debatable, it caused me to want to see more of those on the list that I hadn't seen, and a satellite channel was running this film at a convenient time. I must say, the excellence of Stone's craftsmanship, and of Tom Cruise's performance, wore down my resistance to his message, although it took almost half of this lengthy biopic to get past my defenses.

What we have here is the true story of a man whose birthday coincides with that of his country, a young man who was properly raised to love all things American. His patriotism led him to volunteer for the Marine Corps and the Vietnam war in the late 1960s, where everything he had ever believed was challenged in the strongest possible terms. The watershed events that finally moved him from traditional all-out American patriot to an American who loves his country but distrusts the government and opposes war, however, were events that mostly followed that famously horrifying war, and said events were often as horrifying in their own way as the things he experienced in Vietnam.

This truly is an excellent film, no doubt about it. Stone, a Vietnam vet himself, frames his story expertly, brings out superb performances from all of his players, and included Mr. Kovic (on whose autobiographical book this film is based) at every stage of the production. The pacing of the tale is smooth and understandable for its nearly 2-1/2 hour length, and the viewer never has a serious problem wondering where Cruise's character is coming from emotionally or intellectually.

"Born On the Fourth of July" has proven to be the capstone of Oliver Stone's career, and was the performance that took Tom Cruise from teen idol to respected actor. No wonder, as Cruise at times does more in this film with a look than he had been able to accomplish with pages of dialogue earlier in his career.

As with almost any 'Nam film, the gore of battle and over-the-top filthy language of its scarred survivors mean that viewing it is more of a cathartic experience than a pleasant one, but beyond that my only nitpick is that one scene has some vets listening to Don McLean's "American Pie" in 1968, three years before the song was recorded. With that minor caveat, the film has given me a lot to think about. While I don't agree with Stone's politics, there is no question that he, Kovic, and others have arrived at their perspective honestly and forcefully, and this film serves as a fine record of a time in our country's history when we fought a second civil war of sorts. Men like Stone and Kovic are the living casualties of that time, and they deserve our respect.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 23, 2013 11:58:50 AM PST
Wonderful commentary. I am a wife of a Viet Nam Vet. Thank you

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2014 10:21:09 AM PDT
RobRock says:
You are right about Stone grinding his ax. Nixon was lambasted even though the two Democrat presidents before him, JFK us into Vietnam because of his crusade against communism, which I agree with. Then there was LBJ, a Democrat. Then Nixon, who got us out. Then at the end was shown a protest going buy the RNC. In 1968, the Democrat convention was over shadowed by all the violent protests outside. This war was run by politicians from Washington D.C. because they were more concerned about their political shine than they were about Vietnam. That's why we failed.
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