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DVD Review

DVD cover

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
(2020 Reissue)


Starring: Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwick, Raymond J. Barry, Jerry Levine, Frank Whaley and Willem Dafoe
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 14 December 2020

Having swallowed the American dream whole and been brought up with Christian values, Ron Kovic volunteers for the Army. He is subsequently sent to the Vietnam war, Kovic witnesses and does things which break his faith. When he is wounded, paralysed below the waist, Kovic descends into darkness...

Born on the Fourth of July (1989. 2 hrs, 18 min, 15 sec) is a biographical war film, directed by Oliver Stone, who co-wrote the script with Kovic, based on his original autobiography. The film won thirteen awards, including the Oscar for best director.

The film covers twenty years of Kovic's life and so some events in his life have been amalgamated, something for which the film gained some criticism.

The film opens in 1956, with a young Kovic playing at war with his friends. He grows into a naive, but patriotic young man and in 1961 he joins the Marines.

The bulk of the film deals with Kovic's (Tom Cruise) time in the army, especially his horrific experiences in the army, including being involved in the murder of women and children and for killing a fellow soldier in friendly fire. Vietnam was a particularly brutal war from which few returned, either mentally or physically scarred. When Kovic is shot he is left paralysed and with no feeling below his waist.

The depiction of the war is visceral. Given that both Kovic and Stone served in the war there is an ugly authenticity to these scenes. Stone would make a trilogy of films about the war Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven & Earth (1993). So divisive was the war for America, that it spawned a plethora of other films and in America, it threatened to tear social cohesiveness.

Kovic returns from war emotionally devastated, so much that his parents, unable to help send him off to Villa Dulce (The Sweet Villa), a sort of dumping ground in Mexico where veterans engage in drinking, drugs and sex to excess. Here he meets the malign influence in the form of Charlie (Willem Dafoe). He finally reaches crisis point and returns home.

Kovic becomes a vocal opponent of the war. This is the contentious section where we quickly whiz through him demonstrating against the war, writing his book and his triumphant speech at the democratic convention.

Stone and Kovic have created a powerful argument against a war which took young innocent men and throw them into hell, for political reasons which are now hard to understand or defend.

The disc comes with a single substantial extra, but one worth listening to, as Stone takes you through some of the reasons the film was made, how it was made and his thoughts on what it meant.


Charles Packer

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