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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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I avoided this when it came out in 1989 having seen Coming Home (1978) and not wanting to revisit the theme of paraplegic sexual dysfunction and frustration. I also didn't want to reprise the bloody horror of our involvement in the war in Vietnam that I knew Oliver Stone was going to serve up. And Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic? I just didn't think it would work.
Well, my preconceptions were wrong.
First of all, for those who think that Tom Cruise is just another pretty boy (which was basically my opinion), this movie sets that mistaken notion to rest. He is nothing short of brilliant in a role that is enormously demanding--physically, mentally, artistically, and emotionally. I don't see how anybody could play that role and still be the same person. Someday in his memoirs, Tom Cruise is going to talk about being Ron Kovic as directed by Oliver Stone.
And second, Stone's treatment of the sex life of Viet Vets in wheelchairs is absolutely without sentimentality or silver lining. There are no rose petals and no soft pedaling. There was no Jane Fonda, as in Coming Home, to play an angel of love. Instead the high school girl friend understandably went her own way, and love became something you bought if you could afford it.
And third, Stone's depiction of America--and this movie really is about America, from the 1950s to the 1970s--from the pseudo-innocence of childhood war games and 4th of July parades down Main street USA to having your guts spilled in a foreign land and your brothers-in-arms being sent home in body bags--was as indelible as black ink on white parchment. He takes us from proud moms and patriotic homilies to the shameful neglect in our Veteran's hospitals to the bloody clashes between anti-war demonstrators and the police outside convention halls where reveling conventioneers wave flags and mouth phony slogans.
I have seen most of Stone's work and as far as fidelity to authentic detail and sustained concentration, this is his best. There are a thousand details that Stone got exactly right, from Dalton Trumbo's paperback novel of a paraplegic from WW I, Johnny Got His Gun, that sat on a tray near Kovic's hospital bed, to the black medic telling him that there was a more important war going on at the same time as the Vietnam war, namely the civil rights movement, to a mother throwing her son out of the house when he no longer fulfilled her trophy case vision of what her son ought to be, to Willem DaFoe's remark about what you have to do sexually when nothing in the middle moves.
Also striking were some of the scenes. In particular, the confession scene at the home of the boy Kovic accidentally shot; the Mexican brothel scene of sex/love desperation, the drunken scene at the pool hall bar and the pretty girl's face he touches, and then the drunken, hate-filled rage against his mother, and of course the savage hospital scenes--these and some others were deeply moving and likely to haunt me for many years to come.
Of course, as usual, Oliver Stone's political message weighed heavily upon his artistic purpose. Straight-laced conservatives will find his portrait of America one-sided and offensive and something they'd rather forget. But I imagine that the guys who fought in Vietnam and managed to get back somehow and see this movie, will find it redemptive. Certainly to watch Ron Kovic, just an ordinary Joe who believed in his country and the sentiments of John Wayne movies and comic book heroics, go from a depressed, enraged, drug-addled waste of a human being to an enlightened, focused, articulate, and ultimately triumphant spokesman for the anti-war movement, for veterans, and the disabled was wonderful to see. As Stone reminds us, Kovic really did become the hero that his misguided mother dreamed he would be.
No other Vietnam war movie haunts me like this one. There is something about coming back less than whole that is worse than not coming back at all that eats away at our consciousness. And yet in the end there is here displayed the triumph of the human will and a story about how a man might find redemption in the most deplorable of circumstances.
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on 25 November 2000
Tom Cruise stars as war veteran Ron Kovic in this moving story of a man destroyed by a war he didn't believe in. The film starts off with Kovic as a teenager preparing to go to Vietnam, his only reason being his love for his country. Only a short period of the film is actually set in Vietnam as the film is about the consequences for one man rather than the war. Kovic is paralysed from the chest down during a gunfight, he is condemned to a chair for life. The film focuses on his struggle to come to terms with this and a powerful performance by Cruise conveys this perfectly. In my opinion this is by far Cruise's best performance in any film yet. Oliver Stone's direction is perfect and the supporting cast are all outstanding. This is, next to Apocalypse Now, the finest vietnam film ever made.
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I bought the normal DVD version and I have to say that the film quality was very average and that the sound escaped me on several occasions. I was not particularly impressed from that point of view – the Bluray I would hope is a big improvement?
Compared to ‘Platoon’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ this film lags behind in some areas, though the ‘moral’ of the storyline is of course more compelling, though less expansive on all things Vietnam?
The film won an Academy Award and Tom Cruise a Golden Globe. It recouped its budget five-fold. However, for me it is not a great film, though, historically it’s important in the tale that it has to tell. There are several ‘Oh my God’ moments here but overall I felt the camera work of war was better done on films like Platoon.
If this film is a true account of what the ‘vet’s’ went through then America has truly been shamed, I can’t understand how the American public and administration allowed the horribly wounded to be treated in this awful way? There was a staggering 75,000 ‘severely disabled’ war vet’s after Vietnam?
And for what? - An ultimate defeat (whatever way you gloss it up) and an eventual realisation (now admitted) that they should never have become involved in the first place.
Vietnam was an American nightmare, the all-powerful bully massacring an estimated three million Vietnamese (a third of them innocent civilians), wrecking their country, poisoning their land and children and yet walking away with nothing? Their own people condemning them for what they were doing and did, war legacies galore - of war crimes, 30,000 drug addicted soldiers, murder within their own ranks and ultimately the poor ‘vets’ treated like it was all their fault? 'My Lai' is touched on in this film, and yet the same public who turned on their own troops, campaigned for the release of William Calley, who orchestrated the massacre of 500 unarmed Vietnam villagers - Oh the irony?
And who are now putting the country of Vietnam back on its feet - the Communists!
What an almighty mess all round this was for America, and what a ghastly carnage they caused and then left behind - with some 6.5 million displaced refugees ( the boat people) fleeing their country?
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on 5 September 2012
The best: region free, very high quality on image and sound (english 5.1 HD MA), it contains several audio languages (french, italian, german, spanish, etc)
The worse: it could have had more bonus material

All in all, excellent purchase.
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This film based on the true life experiences of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) who started out as a dedicated patriot joining the US Marines to fight in Viet Nam. His experiences in Nam make him embittered with the futility of the conflict and the sufferings of the Vietnamese.
The first part of the film showing Kovic growing up and joining the marines is more targeted at American audiences, but once he is wounded, paralysed and a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair the appeal is universal. His gradual conversion to the aims of the “Stop the war movement” and peace activist are superbly acted by Cruise.
This is a tough, harrowing film to view, it depicts the desperate trauma I have read about suffered by Nam vets, I once saw a veteran comment “Nam made me so wild I am not safe to live amongst ordinary people”. We encounter the equivalent of that in this film, it is devastatingly honest and depicts not only the horrors of the conflict, the field hospitals, and the destruction of the souls of the men who survived.
Compelling viewing, but only if you are prepared to face the truth about war, but at the end there is some kind of hope.
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on 4 December 2011
This was my first viewing of the movie, and frankly I forgot when it was filmed. This was down to 2 factors: firstly it's all set in the past (50's 60's and 70's, all meticulously recreated), and secondly it has come out beautifully on blu-ray, with a clear, sharp print.
Within minutes it reminded me why Oliver Stone is still hailed as a great director. Although I've never been a huge fan of drama or Bio-pics, I was so fascinated by the cinematic sweep and incredible storytelling I forgot everything else going on around me.
Starting as the typical all-American boy, Tom Cruise's journey as Ron Kovic is told so well through Cruise's performance, Stone's direction and John William's emotive music that you're thoroughly swept up.
The American segments of the film almost have a Spielberg feeling of olden times America about them and are laden with period and charm. Once we get to Vietnam, Stone's power as a dramatic storyteller kicks in even harder with shockingly emotional and upsetting moments. These are so powerful that they take the breath away, and become the catalyst for everything that's going to happen later.
After 2 battle scenes that can be accurately referred to as his day going literally to hell, the film barely lets up.
Stone can do 'harrowing' better than most, and Kovic's hellish experiences in battlefield triage and then a filthy veterans' hospital back in the States are among the film's most shocking sequences.
Once back in the USA, the fervently patriotic Kovic finds his faith shaken by everything from his own family's opinions to those of his college sweetheart, and eventually begins to swing from disaffected and drunk to angry and liberal.
It's a barnstorming performance from Cruise who is often underrated as an actor, and married to Stone's angry intelligent script and Williams' soaring score it really takes you on an emotional journey. From one of the most romantic moments in cinema (Kovic's passionate last-minute dance with his sweetheart), to some of the worst battlefield horrors, to bored hookers ridiculing injured vets in Mexico and right back to Veterans flinching at firecrackers in a Fourth of July parade, every nuance and emotion is nailed right on the money.
Impactful emotional films like this, that entertain while helping remind us of important moments in world history are why we need mavericks like Oliver Stone. Everybody with a strong opinion on War should see this movie.
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on 20 November 2013
If you have any doubts about Tom Cruise as an actor then watch this. Unforgettable and very moving. Timeless message from a brilliantly captured era. Hard to watch because of its searing honesty but Oliver Stone pays a remarkable tribute to his veteran colleagues through this film.
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on 10 June 2015
A moving film based on a true story about a true Vietnam war vet who lost the use of his legs during the war and became a war protester after that. Tom Cruise does a decent job in some scenes but may be very difficult to watch. Willem Dafoe who worked with Stone beforehand in Platoon makes a cameo as a war vet cripple as well. Oliver Stone does give us an emotional story in the script, but however remains vague at the end but still well-directed. John Williams provides a haunting score.
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on 15 March 2015
Id watched this film a few years ago but had forgotten what a brilliant portrayal of how hard it is for war veterans to cope following a harrowing campaign. Tom Cruise is brilliant, as well as the supporting cast. Many parts of it shocked me which I'm sure it was made to do, and its realism really hits home as anything less would not have done the film justice and portrayed the arena of the Vietnam war so harrowingly.
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on 21 February 2013
Cruise is a brilliant actor and really portrays the emotions of a soldier well.
The film conveys the message that wars are not just about a country's soldiers fighting for it; but the resultant emotional damage a soldier is faced with. It portrays an individual soldier's life-changing situation out of the many mentally-challenging situations that they are put through.
Emotive and real.
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