Much of modern America's understanding of the Vietnam War has been shaped by films, not the least of which being Oliver Stone's Platoon. In Born on the Fourth of July, Stone revisits the topic to show us the damage the war did back home. Aiding him is Tom Cruise, whose powerful performance as real-life veteran Ron Kovic earned him the right to never again be thought of as "just a pretty face." Both were nominated for Oscars for work which many claimed was the best of their careers; Stone took home the Best Director trophy. Based on the autobiography of Kovic, the film is a brutally honest account of how the devastation of war extends far beyond the battlefield. In our somber hindsight, we may have less ideological, patriotic innocence than the all-American Kovic at the start of the movie -- but also like Kovic, we certainly don't have much left by the film's end. Stone brilliantly portrays the nowhere-to-turn rage of the Vietnam Vet: angry at the war, angry at the military, yet often hated by those who feel the same way but have never worn a uniform. Like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July is a historical drama that truly merits the word "important," the kind of film that future generations should watch so as to never forget their past. Despite its pain, however, the film is inspirational, a story of one man's triumph over hate, self-pity and his own personal demons. By rising above his own hardships to make certain the nation recognized and remembered its mistakes, Kovic proves he's still an all-American boy after all.
by Matthew Doberman review