12 ago. 2010

My Review: Born on the Fourth of July (8/10)

"I am the living death, a Memorial Day on wheels. I am your Yankee Doodle Dandy, your John Wayne come home, your Fourth of July firecracker exploding in the grave."

Oliver Stone won his second Oscar for Best Direction with Born on the Fourth of July and it also had to do with the Vietnam War just like his previous film Platoon. Stone was a Vietnam War veteran himself and by now we all know his political and ideological views which can be seen in most of his films. This movie focuses more on how the war impacted one individual and how his values changed over the course of time. It is based on the autobiographical book written by Ron Kovic who also worked with Oliver Stone on writing the screenplay. Kovic is known for being an anti-war spokesperson, but the film begins by exploring his early life and how he dreamt about being a war hero and a patriot. His values didn`t change even soon after he returned home and at first was hurt by all the protestors, but over time he changes and that is what the film explores more than the actual war itself. The movie studies the psychological impact the war had on this man who dreamt of becoming a war hero from his childhood only to be disillusioned by it after being severely wounded and left paralyzed from the chest down. Ron blindly wants to serve his country and states that he will gladly die in the war, but those of us who are familiar with his story know that his views will change over time and that is the major attraction this movie has. We want to discover how Ron made such an important transition in his life because we all know values are something men don`t easily change. The transformation that Kovic experiences from an innocent young kid to an anti-war spokesperson is the major attraction of the movie and Tom Cruise carries the movie with his very believable performance.

The movie opens with little Ronnie (Brian Larkin) playing outdoors with his friends from the neighborhood. He lives with his family in Massapequa, Long Island and grows up in a very patriotic and catholic household. He is raised by his father (Raymond J. Barry), a War Veteran himself, and mother (Caroline Kava), a devout catholic who teaches his son about fearing God and loving the country. Ronnie was born on the fourth of July so he remembers spending his birthdays watching the parade and recieving the War veterans as heroes. His childhood sweetheart is Donna(Jessica Prunell) who is always cheering for him at the local baseball games at which he excells. He was impacted by Kennedy`s inaugural speech and the film then jumps to his Senior year in High School where he was a wrestler. Ron (now played by Tom Cruise) continues to be shy and innocent and Donna (Kyra Sedqwick) is still in love with him. One day a recruiting marine officer (Tom Berenger) visits the High School and Ron is inspired by him to join the marines along with his friend Timmy (Frank Whaley), although his other buddy Steve (Jerry Levine) tries to convince them otherwise so that they study in college like him. Ron decides to go to war and there are a few strong battle scenes which impacted his life, first when he accidently kills women and children in the line of fire and then an american soldier, and later when he is severely wounded and becomes paralyzed from the chest down. The rest of the film explores the poor treatment he received at the hospital, his return home and how he became the man who he now is.

The film shouldn`t be seen as simply a war movie, it is an autobiography on Ron Kovic`s inspirational life and Tom Cruise plays his so well that the film succeeds. This is one of his best performances ever as we experience through him the transformation that Ron experiences. The scene where he runs in the rain to get to the prom and dance with Donna before leaving for the War reminds us of what his life could have been like if he stayed home. It was a very powerful and touching scene. There are also other great dramatic scenes like the breakdown he experiences at home with his mother and the conversation he has with Timmy once they both return from War. Willem Defoe has some interesting scenes as well as the friend Ron meets when he travels to Mexico. This is where Ron discovers he is just one of the many victims the insignificant war has left. I really enjoyed the story and even though it was probably a very personal movie for Oliver Stone and very biased, the story still worked because Ron Kovic himself worked with Stone on the screenplay. The movie was nominated for best screenplay although it didn`t win. The only other award it received, beside the best director, was for best editing although it was nominated in eight categories. I really enjoyed the score and cinematography that helped set the overall mood and efectiveness of the movie. I highly reccomend this film, whatever your feelings are towards Stone.

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