Born on the Fourth of July

Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Director: Oliver Stone

★★☆☆☆

Based on Ron Kovic’s memoir of the same title (published in 1976), Born on the Fourth of July is another heart-wrenching depiction of the Vietnam War and the struggles faced by its returning veterans. While acknowledging the truly heroic sacrifices of soldiers and their families, I found this film to be far too sentimental and overly dramatized to be taken too seriously. While Tom Cruise delivers a memorable performance, I suppose, his character arc begins in a quaint monochrome 1950s small town where all the citizens are patriotic so he joins the military only to find himself shooting innocent Vietnamese children, accidentally killing a compatriot, and then he becomes tragically injured himself. By the end of the film, the now wheelchair-ridden Kovic has gone through a full transformation from conservative American patriot into staunch anti-war activist addressing the DNC. The intent of this film is pure but the execution was difficult to stomach for me.

While I think the sentiments of Born on the Fourth of July are admirable –highlighting the unique and oft neglected trials of American veterans– I couldn’t help but take note of the deep grab-bag of cheap Hollywood tropes and cliches replete throughout the movie. If forced to choose, I would prefer Oliver Stone’s other film about the Vietnam War, Platoon (1986).

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