Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
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Excellent. Cruise was exceptional. No scene over stayed it's welcome... Felt like it could have been even longer.
Born on the Fourth of July is an Oliver Stone movie perhaps more geared towards those who don't like Oliver Stone movies (like myself). It has all of his usual preachy elements, but they're much more toned down here than in any of his subsequent movies (that I've seen).
Tom Cruise is, as usual, not a bad actor at all. It really shows that his earliest roles weren't all Mission: Implossibles and The Mummys. He was a legitimate actor for a while, and one could say that he's quite a good one. He actually puts some of the actors around him here to shame. Caroline Kava, the actress who portrays his bible-thumping catholic mother, appears somewhat amateur in comparison. Never upstaged, though, is Willem Dafoe. He forges what is perhaps the film's most memorable character in very few scenes, but I suppose I almost expect that from Dafoe at this point. The war scenes themselves are different from those I've seen in any other Vietnam movie. They have an exclusively warm colour palette, but feel very cold and uninviting nevertheless. No matter how I feel about his attitudes and writing in general, Stone is certainly capable of greatness.
But, he consistently falls prey to the same negative tendencies. While there are some breathtakingly powerful scenes here, there are also some that could feel much more natural if Stone didn't stick his oppressive morals in there. Yeah, I get it, you don't like the catholic church. I appreciate a filmmaker that weaves subtle themes into a narrative, not so much one that assaults you with how they want you to feel about X or Y. Not to mention the ham-handed foreshadowing. Yeah, I get it, he's raised in an innocent, patriotic time and he's going to become jaded. You don't need to spell it out for me.
Other than that, Born also doesn't separate itself enough from better Vietnam movies to really stand out. Not much of the ground trodden here hasn't been done better by Cimino, Coppola or Kubrick, and in a style that's generally more interesting. In that sense, I think I like JFK more even though I enjoyed it less. It imprinted on me more than Born did, and I watched Born two days ago. But, it's still a decent movie. It's an all-together OK experience, with some really great scenes, and not a whole lot else.
Ends rather abruptly, like the filmmakers had run out of runway, but overall I was impressed by how well this one holds up 30+ years later. Say what you will about Stone as a writer/director, but his films hold their value over time.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #90 in Golden Globe Award - Best Motion Picture
This movie ranks #106 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #120 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #369 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #881 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Adjusted Box Office
This movie ranks #932 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown