Born on the Fourth of July

English 102 – Section 07

March 5, 2003

Question #5

The second movie in Oliver Stone’s war trilogy, Born on the Forth of July, is based on the autobiographical story of a Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise). Stone’s intuitive techniques as a director contribute in scrutinizing a critical era of American history, thru the life of one person. In this film, he posits Ron Kovic’s life as an allegory of the revolutions that occurred in the in the afflicting and erratic era of the late 1960s and ‘70s in America. Through the journey of this one man, Stone perfectly chronicles the social and political aftermath that divided a war-torn country. Ron Kovic defines the Vietnam War generation and the disillusionment that these men faced. Born on the Fourth of July delineates the story of a Vietnam veteran. Through the life of this one man, Stone embodies the fabric of the late 1960’s and a generation forever lost to the austerity and disillusionment of this war. This movie does not focus on Vietnam, but instead on aftermath and consequences of Vietnam and Stone depicts it impeccably through Ron Kovic’s life.

The movie begins by explaining the childhood of Ron Kovic and the influence of the “small town 1950s America” had on his decisions in life. At this time, the mood of the country was optimistic but extremely naïve to the fostering tensions of Vietnam and Nixon. Kovic, like the majority of his generation, grew up in a conservative and sheltered time that emphasized religion, family, and the American Dream. He lives in a typical, archetypal American upbringing where symbols such as John Wayne and the honor of serving and fighting for his country coincide with manhood. Kovic’s naïve youth of playing war games with childhood friends and observing, from his father’s shoulders, older generations of war heroes marching proudly in his hometown Fourth of July parade only heighten his ambitious patriotic fervor. An all-American high school boy, he therefore enlists in the Marines right after graduating from high school entrusting in the false myths of America that he had been surrounded by as a child.

Stone shows only a few scenes of actual combat in Vietnam but in these scenes all the brutality and misery of war are displayed. In these combat scenes, Stone shows how Kovic and his platoon mistakenly fire on a village of women and children. The echoing of the screaming baby sprawled next to its dead mother is a memory that remains locked and haunted in this young soldier’s mind. Another vital combat scene also depicts the horror show of war. His platoon is told to shoot at everything that movies so, Kovic in his confusion shots a fellow comrade whom he mistaken for a Viet Cong. Stone depicts this scene masterfully by giving the scene an orange, blurry hue along with the blinding sunset making the audience clearly comprehend the confusion. In these two diplomatically engaging scenes, Stone exhibits the asinine disarray of war. In the closing scene of combat, Kovic is shot by a Viet Cong leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. This imperative moment dramatically reveals

Limiting the focus on the battle scenes Stone concentrates instead on his pre and post Vietnam development. When Kovic returns, he ends up in a filth ridden Veteran’s Hospital as he slowly learns that his “love it or leave it” patriotism is being challenged.