069 - Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)

Born On The Fourth Of July is the story of a Vietnam veteran before, during and after the war - based on Ron Kovic's 1976 autobiography.

Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) is the pride of his family; athletic, intelligent and patriotic. His life changes one day when the marine corp ask for young volunteers to serve their country. As they explain that they only accept "the best", Kovic realises that his life is about to change direction.

He is sent on two missions to Vietnam, both of which have an impact on the rest of his life, the first haunts his nightmares and the second leaves him paralysed from the waist down.

Following a long readjustment period back in America and Mexico which almost wrecks his relationship with everyone, he becomes an anti-war protester and pro-human rights activist.

Theatrical Poster
Although it begins to hide it a bit better after the first half an hour, Born On The Fourth Of July is, at heart, a deeply patriotic film. It is clearly split into three separate sections where Kovic is fighting battles; at the beginning against his growing feelings for his childhood sweetheart, then in the war in Vietnam and finally against the bitterness for the war itself.

Many of the scenes in the film are likely to cause some distress, from the Vietnam family devastated by American gunners, the hospital scenes where Kovic realises his disability or Kovic's move to Mexico  (where he meets a Willem Defoe cameo) after being thrown out by his family.

The set work involved in all these locations must have been phenomenal, and the camera movement - especially in Vietnam - really aids with setting the emotion.

Unfortunately, being an epic war film, the soundtrack begins following the same bog-standard American patriotic theme, although director Oliver Stone has the sense to tone this down later on so that the audience is able to appreciate the emotion in Cruise's finest appearance since Top Gun.

You need to see this, no matter on whichever side of war activism you fall on. It will, if nothing else, allow you to appreciate both sides of the argument.