movie film review | chris tookey

Born On The Fourth Of July

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  Born On The Fourth Of July   Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
7.57 /10
Tom Cruise , Kyra Sedgwick, Willem Dafoe
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Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic (based on Kovic's true story)

Released: 1989
Genre: WAR
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 144


A young, gung-ho soldier, Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) has his spine shattered in Viet Nam, and his faith in the war shattered when he returns home to a country which regards him and the war as embarrassments.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Widely acclaimed on its release as the "definitive" movie about Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July is a serious but very flawed attempt to come to terms with the Vietnam war. It is very overlong, and much of it is over-familiar. We've seen the torching of defenceless villages and the shooting of Americans by Americans, in Casualties of War and Platoon; veterans adjusting to life in a wheelchair in Coming Home and The Deer Hunter; and the thankless return to America in First Blood, Welcome Home and In Country... When all this is paraded before us yet again, it's hard not to feel Viet numb.
The two climaxes of the film are parochial, self-pitying and complacent. The first - Kovic's greatest moment of defiance - comes when he attends the 1972 Republican National Convention and rages against Nixon, Agnew and the rest. "They have killed a whole generation of young Americans!" he cries, momentarily forgetting perhaps that only 50,000 Americans died, while Vietnamese casualties ran into millions.
The final, supposedly uplifting set-piece is our hero's arrival as a guest speaker at the 1976 Democrat Convention. Surrounded by cheering activists and attentive journalists, Kovic looks happy and relaxed for the first time, and concludes: "Maybe we're home". The implication is clear: Kovic's physical injuries may remain, but his mental wounds - and the country's - are being cleansed by the democratic process and media publicity, of which this movie is a part. Such cosy rhetoric may be comforting, not least for American Democrats; but, unfortunately, it was Democrat Presidents Kennedy and Johnson who instigated the Vietnam war, and a Republican (Nixon) who ended it.
Although the American public was lied to by governments of both parties, these were leaders freely elected under a democratic system; and the truth about the war was available from early on, if the American people and media had cared to examine it. Stone conspicuously avoids a far less palatable truth about Vietnam: that the American people itself was responsible for sending so many young Americans (a disproportionate number of whom were black), and innumerable Vietnamese, to a futile death.

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