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The reviews for Born on the Fourth of July vary from one critic to another. Some people find Oliver Stone’s work to accurately represent the events of the Vietnam War and the suffering of the soldiers who participated in it. Others argue that Stone’s film was designed to appeal to the public as a blockbuster and not a sensitive documentary of Ron Kovic’s life. Of the topics discussed in the following reviews, the most frequent are acting, re-creation of the war, and the comparison to Stone’s film Platoon. The writers unanimously agree that the cinematography was brilliant, but sometimes this overshadowed the true meaning of the film—if there was one at all.

Ansen, David. "Bringing it all back home, 'A new Vietnam film goes for the jugular'." Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Newsweek 25 Dec. 1989: 74.
Ansen suggests that the film leaves the viewer dazed and confused. He respects the quality of the film and its intensity, but there's something phony about the all-American hometown setup: "it's the cinematic equivalent of heavy metal, awesome fragments buried in a whole lot of bombast." Ron Kovic's political metamorphosis is unclear—a subject that hasn't been discussed in any of the other reviews.
Berardinelli, James. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=1776
Berardinelli simultaneously celebrates the film for its accuracy in depicting the war that was waiting for the veterans once they returned home and criticizes director Oliver Stone for losing his pace in the third act: "The movie's final half hour is neither as arresting nor as well-paced as what precedes it." The closing hour of the film and Kovic's transformation to anti-war activist is "hurried and incomplete." But "Nothing about Born on the Fourth of July is dated; it remains an involving tale of innocence lost and of war and its unintended consequences."
"Born on the Fourth of July." Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Variety 1 Jan. 1989. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117789451.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0
Variety finds Stone's re-telling of Ron Kovics' odyssey from All-American boy to wheel-chair-bound war activist to be unforgettable. Variety praises Stone for his ability to drench the movie "in visceral reality, from the agonizing chaos of a field hospital to the dead stalemate of a Bronx veteran's hospital infested with rats, drugs and the humiliation of lying helplessly in one's own excrement." In addition, Variety calls Tom Cruise's performance as Kovic "stunning" and also singles out Willem Dafoe for giving a "startling, razor-sharp performance" as a disabled vet hiding out in a Mexican beach town.
Collins, Glenn. "Oliver Stone is Ready to Move on From Vietnam." Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. New York Times 2 Jan. 1990: C13, 20.
Stone expresses his own views on the film and the Vietnam War in Collins' review. In a conversation between director and critic, Stone opens up about his own experience in the Vietnam War and how his friendship with Ron Kovic allowed him to re-create the era with precision. Stone realizes his reputation within the film community, but that doesn't seem to bother him when it comes to his work: "‘I'm in the face all the time,' Mr. Stone acknowledged of his cinematic style. ‘Always in your face.'" Overall, Collins finds Stone's opinion to be a breath of fresh air in the industry, and he illuminates Stone for the audience.
Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Chicago Sun-Times. Accessed 26 Feb. 2009 . http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19891220/REVIEWS/912200301/1023
Ebert's review offers a unique blend of current historical information, for example, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and a just overview of the movie. He constantly reminds the reader that the film stays true to the Vietnam War and Ron Kovic's life through the use of excellent directing from Stone and strong acting from Tom Cruise and company. He says, "Although this film has vast amounts of pain and bloodshed and suffering in it, and is at home on battlefields and in hospital wards, it proceeds from a philosophical core: It is not a movie about battle or wounds or recovery, but a movie about an American who changes his mind about the war. The filmmakers realize that is the heart of their story and are faithful to it, even though they could have spun off in countless other directions." Compared to other reviews that suggest Stone's Hollywood twist on Vietnam is false, Ebert congratulates the authenticity.
Hinson, Hal. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Washington Post. 5 January 1990: B1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/bornonthefourthofjulyrhinson_a0a905.htm
Like many other critiques, Hinson's opinion is a double-edged sword. One minute he's beautifully describing the story behind Ron Kovic, and then he scolds Stone for being a propagandist. He says, "Because there have now been so many films about Vietnam, because we've seen so many innocent villagers gunned down, so many accidental deaths, so much tragedy and pain, unless a radically different perspective is presented -- as in De Palma's ‘Casualties of War' -- a numbing sense of familiarity sets in." More importantly, Hinson identifies the main problems in the film as the lack of original perceptions and the fact that there isn't really a need for the film.
Howe, Desson. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Washington Post. Accessed 25 Feb. 2009 . http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/bornonthefourthofjulyrhowe_a0b247.htm
Unimpressed with the Vietnam War representation found in the film, Howe doesn't hold back the insults: "Stone has created a film whose overblown parts add up to far less than the epic whole he had in mind." In his opinion, Stone overcompensated in the wrong areas and reverses the role of imitation and originality. And he doesn't forget the other contributors to the film—Tom Cruise, whose acting career is limited to "one-note roles," apparently whines his whole way through the movie. This is by far the most negative review. Surprisingly, Howe doesn't find a way to insult Ron Kovic for his own life decisions.
Klawans, Stewart. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Nation 1 Jan. 1990: 28-30.
Klawans writes with intensity and excitement for the film, paying special attention to Stone's cinematography, saying, "The camera generally stays right on the surface of Cruise's eyes or else substitutes for them; with Stone's nonstop dollies and pans and tilts, you might come out of the theater feeling as if you had been fighting battles personally, rolling around drunkenly in a wheelchair and getting hit on the head by cops." Identifying why the movie puts the viewer into a trance makes this review valuable.
O'Brien, Tom. "At War with Ourselves, ‘Glory'& ‘Fourth of July'." Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Commonweal 9 Feb. 1990: 84-86.
O'Brien offers strengths and weaknesses. He, like other reviewers, sees a strong comparison between the this film and Platoon. O'Brien believes this film portrays the harsh realities of war zones and the bloody aftermath for wounded soldiers. The accuracy of the details pays respects to veterans from any war who understand what Ron Kovic went through in Vietnam. Yet, immediately after he builds up the film, O'Brien points out the major flaws. "The real-life, episodic flow of events causes problems; midway, we lose track of three of the strongest characters near Kovic -- his quiet, helpless father (Raymond J. Barry), his domineering mother (Caroline Cava), and a girlfriend (Kyra Sedgwick)." Ironically, O'Brien was disappointed by the attention on Kovic's life, though it was incredibly accurate.
Travers, Peter. Rev. of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. Rolling Stone. Accessed 26 Feb. 2009. http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/5947469/review/5947470/ born_on_the_fourth_of_july
Although much attention is directed towards Stone for his vision behind the film, this review focuses on Tom Cruise. Cruise, a young actor at the time, plays Ron Kovic, the author of the book on which the film is based. Travers commented positively on his acting: "As Kovic, Tom Cruise gives an astounding, deeply felt performance. For over two hours, under the pile-driving direction of Oliver Stone (Platoon), Cruise takes us on a grueling journey."

See Also

Benson, Sheila. "Oliver Stone Goes to War Again." Los Angeles Times 20 December 1989: F1.

Eilert, Richard. "Born of the Fourth: It's a Lie." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 26 February 1990: 3B.

Kael, Pauline. "The Current Cinema: Potency." New Yorker 22 January 1990: 122-24.