I’ll be the first to admit that, aside from the basics, I know very little about the Vietnam War, but for almost the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a decorated Vietnam veteran, which has caused me to want to learn more about the war. Since the first of the year, I’ve tried to read up on the war a little every day, and I’ve also kept my eyes open for books and movies about the war.
Around this time last year, I ran across a “best of” list of movies about the Vietnam War, and, while I’d seen most of them, one that I hadn’t seen seemed to jump off the page at me, “Born on the Fourth of July.” I somewhat remember when this movie first came out, but for whatever reason over the years, I’d never taken the time to watch the uncut version from start to finish. For this reason, I added it to my “bucket list” and finally took the time to watch it in its entirety this past Sunday.
“Born on the Fourth of July” was released in theaters on Dec. 20, 1989 and was directed by Oliver Stone, who is also a Vietnam veteran. The movie, which is based on a true story, stars Tom Cruise in the lead role of real life Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic. The rest of the movie’s cast includes Stephen Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Vivica Fox and Abbie Hoffman as well as cameos by Kovic and Stone. This movie is a little longer than most with a run time of nearly 2-1/2 hours.
The movie follows the life of Kovic, who grows up as a seemingly All-American boy in the state of New York, where he excels in school and is a talented high school wrestler and baseball player. He also comes from a patriotic family and enlists in the Marine Corps right out of high school during the Vietnam War. He serves multiple tours of duty overseas only to become paralyzed from the chest down during an intense firefight.
The rest of the movie follows Kovic’s experiences in dealing with his life-altering injury, his experiences in substandard veterans hospitals and how his friends and family react to him when he returns to his old neighborhood. Kovic has a hard time returning to civilian life, and he eventually ends up down in Mexico trying to cope with his life as a severely wounded veteran. He eventually becomes active in the anti-war movement, something he wouldn’t have even considered being involved in during his time in Vietnam.
I was interested to learn that this movie is based Kovic’s best-selling autobiography, which is also called “Born on the Fourth of July.” Published in 1976 by McGraw-Hill, it’s said that Kovic wrote the book in 1974 in less than two months. Having now seen the movie, I’m considering adding this book to my “bucket list” next year.
In the end, how many of you have watched “Born on the Fourth of July”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? What other Vietnam War movies or books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.