“Born On The Fourth Of July” is an extremely realistic portrayal of one American’s changing beliefs and faith in his country. Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, an excited young American ready to serve his country. After experiencing the war firsthand, Ron’s views and feelings regarding the war change drastically. The movie opens up in the beginning of Ron Kovic’s life, as he experiences his childhood. He’s a boy who loves his country, and longs to fight for it, but as the movie progresses, the love fades, or does it? In the end we are left with a man who loves his country, just as much as he did as a boy. What makes this movie the best Vietnam war movie ever made, is Oliver Stone with his technical genius, Ron Kovic’s awe-inspiring story, and the harsh reality that is brought to light. Oliver Stone is himself a Vietnam veteran, so he knows the reality of it. As I recently watched this movie, with a technical eye, I noticed a lot of new things. For one, Stone shot the movie using three different shades of colors. Those colors represent America, in red, white and blue. What is really amazing about “Born on the Fourth of July,” is it’s really the experience of the people, and the soldiers who felt these decisions from the bottom up.
Stone brought the trauma of being a soldier into the hearts of everyone who saw the film. The camera in each period of Kovic’s life, takes on a new form. In the beginning of the film, the camera is more steady, but things move fast around it, a lot like the way growing up is, it all happens so fast. Then once in Vietnam, the camera begins to move more rapidly, it’s slightly distorted, and shaky, but the action is sometimes very slow. This brings us into the instability of the Vietnam war, and how some moments last forever. The moments leading up to Kovic being shot, are very slowly done. I suppose it’s cause those moments last forever in the minds of Vietnam veterans. I’m sure there’s not a day that goes by, where Kovic doesn’t think about that day, and how different his life may have been, if he just ran in the other direction, or didn’t run at all, or didn’t sign up for a 2nd tour in Vietnam. As the movie progresses, the camera becomes more and more steady, and things happen much quicker. By the end of the film, the camera is back to a more stationary position, where Ron Kovic enters the stage, ready to address a stadium of people on his life and times in Vietnam. This movie was directed from the heart, Oliver Stone really became Ron Kovic in a sense, telling us the story visually with a ton of emotion.
There are something’s you just can’t make up. There are scenes in this movie, which portray a reality, unthinkable. Born on the Fourth of July is the story about many things, they include love, regret, betrayal, acceptance, and back to love again. Kovic from an early age loves his country, and even has that desire to die for it, if it comes to that. Most of his friends dodge the war, or go off to college, while Kovic enters a tour of duty as a Marine in the Vietnam War. Once in Vietnam he sustains a spinal injury, and is sent to a veterans hospital. What goes on in this hospital, is straight out of my description of hell on Earth, and full of regret. He has to live with the fact that he will never walk again, and trouble is knocking on every door. He tries to regain his strength, and accidentally slips one night, causing the doctors to possibly amputate. He luckily is able to keep his legs, and a few months later he is sent back home, where the betrayal begins. He comes home to a country against the war.
I can not even imagine what that must be like, to fight so strongly for something, and to have lost so dearly for something, that in the public eye was wrong. There is one scene that sticks out in my mind with this movie. It involves Kovic as a child watching a World War II veteran parade, and there’s one moment were Kovic stares down an injured veteran, as they have this sort of moment together. Flash forward fifteen or so years, and we are at a welcome home Vietnam parade, and Kovic has this same moment, except now, with an anti-war advocate. The courage Kovic displays in this story is unfathomable. I can not even image the difficulty of coping with that. As time passes he to comes to see that the war is wrong, and that he was indeed betrayed by his country. The rest of the movie is a fight to be back home again, in a country he loves.
This movie was magnificently executed. It is not, however, a movie for everyone. People who go to the movies to escape, may not like the reality of this particular movie. I personally don’t believe you can make a good Vietnam War movie, or any movie in that regards without showing the gritty reality of it all. Although this film has vast amounts of pain and bloodshed and suffering in it, and is at home on battlefields and in hospital wards, it is not a movie about battle or wounds or recovery, but a movie about an American who changes his mind about the war. Oliver Stone realizes that is the heart of the story and is faithful to it, even though they could have spun off in countless other directions. This is a film about ideology, played out in the personal experiences of a young man who paid dearly for what he learned.