Born on the Fourth of July, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy (1989-2012)

by | Jul 18, 2012 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Born on the Fourth of July, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy (1989-2012)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rayond J. Barry, Josh Evans, William Dafoe
Director: Oliver Stone
Music: John Williams
Studio: Universal 62122851 [7/3/12]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Backstory from the NBC News Archives, Commentary track by Oliver Stone, 100 Years of Universal Academy Award Winners, 100 Years  of Universal: The ‘80s
Length: 2 hrs., 25 mins.
Rating: *****

Stone won two Oscars for this film, including Best Director, and deserved it. Not being a Tom Cruise fan, I think this must be his very best acting role in any film—absolutely brilliant. Stone—a Vietnam vet himself—worked closely with the real vet portrayed here, Ron Kovic, and they did the screenplay together based on Kovic’s book of his experiences. (It was the first book to appear which gave attention to what the war did to those who served in it.) In a way, they succeeded in making the best of all the films on the Vietnam War.
The film opens with a beautifully shot and edited depiction of a Fourth of July parade in Kovic’s home town, plus childhood war games. Kovic was not only born on the Fourth but he is a totally patriotic John Wayne type who is the first in his high school class to sign up with the Marines and go to Vietnam when the war starts. It then jumps to combat in Vietnam, but adds two important incidents before it gets to the disturbing scene where Kovic gets shot: One is the discovery that the platoon’s wild machine-gunning of a small settlement has killed several innocent peasants. The other is that in the confusion of being attacked by the other side, and the sun in his eyes, Kovic accidentally kills a fellow Marine. The later scene when he visits the family of the Marine and tells them what occurred is one of the several haunting scenes in the film.
The scenes in the VA hospital are even more disturbing than those on the battlefield. Kovic is in danger of having to completely lose a leg because an old pump being used fails and the VA isn’t given sufficient funds to purchase a replacement. He goes to a Mexican brothel for the vets, where he is a drunken wastrel. Stone handles the behavior and actions of the wheelchair-bound vets without any sentimentality. Kovic is shown at first to be full of hate and rage at his situation. He is taken to a college demonstration against the war by his old girl friend, but doesn’t appear to be interested until he sees the brutality of the police in beating and arresting the demonstrators. However, I thought one more scene could have been included to show Kovic’s gradual change from his gung-ho Marine persona to one of the leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement. But it’s still a masterpiece. It ends showing Kovics as the real hero his family expected him to be, but in a different way, as he wheels himself to the stage to deliver a speech at the Democratic Convention that quickly becomes central in the nation getting out of Vietnam.
The Blu-ray transfer is superb and the 5.1 surround well used. The film does not seem too long in spite of its nearly two-and-one-half hours. There are many bits of current pop music of the period, though I understand that one of them is “American Pie,” which didn’t come out until three years later. I noticed a strange thing about John Williams’ original score, which pops up here and there: Near the ending it sounded like the score for another film.  Of course Williams has been accused more than others of showing too-noticeable influences of other composers in his scores.
—John Sunier

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure