Born on the Fourth of July (1989)


Starring: Tom Cruise, Raymond Barry, Caroline Kava, Kyra Sedgwick, Josh Evans, Frank Whaley, Jerry Levine, Willem Dafoe

Director: Oliver Stone

Summary: A man fights to rebuild his life after losing the use of his legs in Vietnam

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Cruise), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Sound, Cinematography, Film Editing*

This is a movie that works both on a big-picture theme level (about Vietnam, the mindset going into the war and what it was like for veterans afterwards, “macho” male expectations and the idea of having to be a “winner”) and on a more personal level, as a story about a man trying to find purpose in his life after coming back to a country he longer recognized and whose self-identity was forever altered after becoming paralyzed in the war. Cruise is excellent and gives what is probably the best performance of his career, especially considering how radically his characterization has to change over the course of the film. It also succeeds on its technical aspects-the cinematography and editing are outstanding and the sound design is exceptional. It’s not something that usually stands out to me, but they used it extremely well. In particular, the scene at the hospital tent in Vietnam and the scene where he gives the speech and the baby starts crying are perfectly executed. Finally, John Williams’ score is everything you would expect for his work from his prime, and is a highlight. I would say it does overuse period music, although not as bad at this as Coming Home or The Big Chill.

My only real specific problem was that it sometimes it had a bit too much bluster for my tastes, that it went over-the-top in some places when a more stripped-down and strongly realistic approach when have been the way to get the point across best in my opinion. I liked it a lot and thought it was close to or equal the level of Stone’s previous Vietnam Best Picture winner, Platoon.

Rating: A-


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