Tags: BD-Live, Blu-ray, Caroline Kava, D-BOX, Digital Copy, Frank Whaley, Jerry Levine, Kyra Sedgwick, Oliver Stone, pocketBlu, Raymond J. Barry, Ron Kovic, Stephen Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Willem Dafoe
has an average rating of 7.1 on IMDb
1080p in VC-1 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are short but prove to be worthwhile
– 145 minutes
This uses 37.7GB for the movie out of 42.7GB total.
Street Date: July 3rd, 2012
Overall Verdict – Great Film / Good Quality
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself is based on the true story told in Ron Kovic‘s autobiography of the same title originally published in 1976. The film was directed by Oliver Stone, best known at this early point in his career for directing the films “Platoon” (1986) and “Wall Street” (1987). Stone co-wrote the adapted screenplay to the film along with Kovic.
We’re first introduced to Ron Kovic when he’s a young boy in 1956 in a town he grew up in outside of Long Island. During this introduction of sorts we see him as a boy playing war in the woods with his childhood friends, playing baseball and eventually watching a Fourth of July parade with his mother & father. The date of July 4th has more meaning than just patriotism to this boy as he was actually born that day; hence the title of the film. He watches with compassion as he sees a group of military veterans come through in the parade. As a boy you can tell he someday wants to serve in the military and does have extreme patriotic nature to his personality. Eventually we flash forward a tad bit to Ron being a teenager and at this point being portrayed by Tom Cruise. Ron is a wrestler at his high school and very enthusiastic about it as well as still a fan of baseball; something that stuck with him from his childhood. Another thing that has stuck with Ron since his childhood is a girl by the name of “Donna” (played by Kyra Sedgwick). She’s pretty much his girlfriend yet he seems to be more into his wrestling and such. One day Ron and his friends are visited at school by a group of recruitment officers from the Marines. Ron sits there listening to their pitch to join their branch of the armed forces and it’s only a matter of time before he’s almost sold on the idea. He discusses the idea of joining the Marines over food at a local diner with his friends. It’s when the war in Vietnam breaks out and he’s watching news reports with his father that he really decides that he wants to serve his country. He tells his parents that he’s going to enlist, tells his girlfriend Donna and says a prayer to God.
A bit of time passes obviously and we’re flashed to 1967 in Vietnam where Ron is serving his second tour of duty in the war. He’s been through a lot but he’s about to go through a lot more than he’s seen in two years in the matter of what we’re shown to happen in one day. His squad is surrounding a Vietnamese village and his commanding officer tells him to look at what he believes to be men carrying rifles. It’s his commanding officer’s assumption that this village is actually filled with the enemy. Ron is told to tell the squad that they’ll soon be opening fire on the commanding officer’s signal but in the process someone in his squad manages to misunderstand the instructions and preemptively opens fire. As a result the rest of the squad opens fire on the village. They are ordered to cease fire and enter the village to assess the casualties — assuming that they were the enemy. Ron is absolutely disgusted to find that the casualties were innocent civilian women and children. A baby is left crying when his mother and countless others are laying on the ground horribly slaughtered by his squad’s gunfire. He’s hesitant to leave when his commanding officer orders him and the other members to. The sound of that baby crying begins from that very moment to haunt him.
Ron and his squad make a quick exit from the village but manage to be the target of gunfire from the Vietnamese forces. They begin to take cover and a very intense exchange of gunfire between sides begins. It’s during this that Ron is startled by someone coming at him. It being war and forced to make decisions on the spur of the moment Ron decides to fire on this person only to soon discover that it was one of the men in his squad. He’s at first very hesitant to tell anyone that he thinks he killed the man via friendly fire but he eventually does try to tell a higher ranking officer. The officer tells him there’s no way he killed his fellow Marine and insists that he stop discussing it. It’s obvious that he doesn’t want to face the fact one of his soldiers perhaps did kill one of his other soldiers. So it’s swept under the rug so-to-speak. Ron continues his tour of Vietnam and eventually in January of 1968 manages to get into another intense exchange of gunfire between sides. It’s during this that Ron is shot numerous times. He’s left lying there for a pretty good while before eventually a member of his squad comes and takes him to safety. He’s immediately took to a medic tent where they’re completely overwhelmed with injured soldiers and can’t see to him in the proper amount of time. As a result they send a priest to his side to deliver his last rights. At this point Ron himself believes he’s going to die and accepts the fact. Next thing we know we flash forward to him being in a veterans hospital. The conditions and care he receives in this hospital are downright horrible. Yet he manages for a while to keep a positive attitude. One day we see him watching news with anti-war protestors burning the American flag to which he’s simply outraged. He repeats countless times “love it or leave it” in reference to the country and the anti-war protestors. Meanwhile he’s served his country and being treated like absolute shit by the staff in a shitty excuse for a hospital that is underfunded by the government.
Things eventually progress and Ron is discharged after many months from the veterans hospital. He’s able to return home with his father and is soon greeted by his mother, brothers and sisters as well as members of his neighborhood. His family and friends are happy to see him return home alive yet they’re all very upset to see him confined to a wheelchair as a result of his injuries. They see what war has done to this boy and it saddens them as well as leaves them not knowing exactly how to react in front of him. He reconnects with one of his childhood friends that runs a local burger joint. This friend was one that was reluctant when the Marine recruiters came to their school and decided to stay home and go to college instead. He offers Ron a job but that’s obviously not what he wants to do with his life. Once he’s home he watches the news and yet again he sees anti-war protestors and yet again he’s outraged. Come July 4th, 1969 the town invites him to be in the Fourth of July parade. As Ron rides in a car through the parade he flinches when he hears fireworks, almost as if it reminds him of the sound of gunfire from the war. He sees some folks cheer for him and others flip him the middle finger and cuss at him in protest of the war. We learn here that almost all of Ron’s friends from high school that served have died in the war except for the ones that stayed back home. Eventually Ron reconnects for a short while with his former girlfriend when he goes to visit her. He learns that she’s now an anti-war protestor and asks if he wants to come with her to a protest. At first he’s reluctant go with her but soon does decide to come with her to the protest which is eventually broke up by the police with tear gas and whatnot. He comes home and more and more he begins to drink and become angry about the situation he’s in as a result of serving his country. He realizes that he gave his life away to his country and received nothing more than some useless medal to make up for the fact he will never walk again.
It’s through his struggle with flashbacks of the baby crying from the village in Vietnam and accidentally killing his fellow Marine that he continues to drink as a means of numbing his pain. Yet, the drinking doesn’t help it just makes him more angry until his parents (mother especially) can’t take it and kick him out. In 1970 he goes to Villa Dulce, Mexico where he meets another veteran in a wheelchair by the name of “Charlie” (played by Willem Dafoe). Charlie spends all his time playing cards, drinking liquor and having sex with prostitutes. This is what has become of the men who have served their country only to come home not only scarred physically but also mentally. Eventually Ron will go on to become part of a Vietnam veterans group that protests the war and will make some real impact, getting his voice finally heard.
“Born on the Fourth of July” was a very disturbing look at what the Vietnam war did to the lives of the men who served in it yet also proved to in the end be very inspirational in ways. The film was nominated for a total of EIGHT Academy Awards and ended up winning TWO. The “Oscars” it won were for “Best Director” (Oliver Stone) and “Best Film Editing” (David Brenner & Joe Hutshing). This was the first film that Tom Cruise was nominated for “Best Actor” and also received a nomination for “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” for Oliver Stone and the real-life Ron Kovic. A couple of interesting bits of trivia for you here in regards to those two men. In the opening scene during the Fourth of July parade you’ll get a cameo by the real-life Ron Kovic as one of the veterans in a wheelchair that flinches when he hears fireworks — as seen HERE to the far right in a screenshot. Also, you’ll get a cameo by the co-writer/director Oliver Stone as a news reporter interviewing a member of the military in regard to the Vietnam war.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the VC-1 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The first bit of the film set in 1956 during Ron’s childhood has a very rough, “gritty” visual appearance when an excessive amount of film grain and dull color palette. When things progress along to Ron being a teenager you’ll start to notice things clear up a bit visually and also have more of a bit of vibrance to the color palette although it still is slightly subdued. All of this was to obviously fit the visual style intended by the filmmakers; namely director Oliver Stone and DP (director of photography) Robert Richardson. There’s one scene in particular where I found there to be some problem with the presentation that I think could have honestly been fixed. This problematic bit comes when the Marine recruitment officers come to Ron’s high school. The contrast here seems way off in the first few shots of the recruitment officers and then transitions over to normal and doesn’t have the problem. This can be seen HERE and HERE via two screenshots of the scene mentioned. You’ll notice that the fleshtones seem off and the white is way too bright in the first shot. The second shot things look fine. This problem only last roughly 20 seconds or so and does not ever become an issue again in the film. Speaking of the fleshtones, they seem accurate and as mentioned as the film progresses along the color palette starts to hold more vibrance. Film grain is present throughout and doesn’t seem to have been “smoothed over” by any excessive use of DNR (digital noise reduction). By the time we get to when Ron has return home from the war and is giving a speech after the Fourth of July parade you’ll notice the color has brightened up as seen in a very iconic and memorable screenshot found below this section. The black level is solid here throughout the film. There’s a great amount of detail to be found here especially in close-ups like in the iconic and memorable screenshot above this section.
As I mentioned early on the first bit of the film may not seem the most visually pleasing but that was the intentions of the filmmakers to give those scenes a unique style to set them apart from the rest of the film. The one tiny problem with the contrast I mentioned doesn’t last long enough for me to deduct anything from the video quality here since the film has the lengthy runtime. All and all this holds a solid visual presentation in its debut to Hi-Def and is worthy of a “4 Star Rating” for overall video quality. This is by far the best the film has ever looked but it perhaps should have received a bit more attention to its digital transfer.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The film starts up with John Williams‘ original score sounding great with a good amount of rear channel and LFE (bass) presence. The opening narration by Tom Cruise sounds very distinct and the same can be said for dialogue throughout the film, being delivered through the front center channel. Dialogue is never once overpowered by the sound effects or music. Speaking of sound effects, even little things like the crowd cheering and whatnot in the opening scene come across with some mild rear channel presence. The songs here from the time period all sound great and have a slight bit of rear channel and LFE presence to them. John William’s score continues to drive the film throughout when music from the time period is not playing. Williams’ score gets a nice delivery through the 5.1 lossless mix and is done somewhat justice. Around 27 minutes in you’ll start to hear your subwoofer finally come to life thanks to the sound of background mortar fire or whatnot as the film transitions to being in Vietnam. There’s a really good amount of both rear channel and LFE presence here and this is where the highlights to the 5.1 mix are. Things get really intense here at times when gunfire is being exchanged between the Marines and the Vietnamese. The sounds of gunfire, explosions and such all come across very realistic. All and all this audio presentation gets the job done and does the film some justice. This earns a solid “4 Star Rating” for overall audio quality. This is definitely the best the film has ever sounded.
Bonus Materials on this release are presented in both full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) and standard definition (SD) video quality with 2.0 Stereo sound in a variety of codecs and quality. As a result of the variety of sound quality I’ll be noting what sound format and quality each featurette is in below in the description.
- Feature Commentary with Director Oliver Stone is an audio commentary that was previously available on the most recent DVD release of the film.
- “From the NBC News Archives – Backstory: Born on the Fourth of July” (21:37 – SD) is presented with DTS 2.0 Stereo @255kbps sound. This includes interviews conducted by Bryant Gumbel (former host of “The Today Show”) with the real-life Ron Kovic, director Oliver Stone and actor Tom Cruise. Kovic discusses how the film was originally going to be made into a film back in 1978 but was cancelled and how director Oliver Stone made a promise to him he would get this film eventually made. It took 11 years to finally get the film made but Oliver Stone held up to his promise. Stone discusses with Gumbel why he felt he should make another film after “Platoon” about Vietnam. As he tells Gumbel he sees the film being more about America and the troops that came back from the war than about Vietnam. In fact, Stone himself was a Vietnam veteran and discusses some of the problems he had when he came back from the war. We learn that Kovic was very pleased with how Tom Cruise portrayed him in the film and his commitment to doing the film justice. Tom Cruise in his interview discusses how much time he spent in the wheelchair staying in character and serves up some very inspirational words in regard to how much he admires Kovic. There’s also some info regarding Ron Kovic’s life here and original footage of him protesting. This proves to be a very worthwhile featurette and is nice to see was “ported” over from the latest DVD release of the film.
- “100 Years of Universal: Academy Award Winners” (9:35 – HD) is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @192kbps sound. This focuses on the films over the past 100 years the studio has made that have won “Oscars” (Academy Awards). This focuses on films such as this film, “To Kill A Mockingbird“, “Erin Brockovich“, “Ray“, “All Quiet on the Western Front“, “The Deer Hunter“, “The Sting“, “Out of Africa“, “A Beautiful Mind“, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Schindler’s List” — with the latter two of which have not yet even been announced for release on the Blu-ray Disc format. It also showcases some others that won Oscars for sound, music, make-up, special effects and whatnot.
- “100 Years of Universal: The ’80s” (15:03 – HD) is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @256kbps sound. This looks back on the studio’s most popular films from the decade and includes interviews with the following people: Sean Daniel (producer), Judd Apatow (writer/director), John Landis (director), Amy Heckerling (director), Molly Ringwald (actress), Anthony Michael Hall (actor), Geoff Boucher (Los Angeles Times writer), Bob Gale (co-writer/producer), Lea Thompson (actress), Christopher Lloyd (actor), Paul Rudd (actor), Dan Akyroyd (actor), Mary Steenburgen (actress), Ron Howard (director), Marc Platt (producer), Denzel Washington (actor), Oliver Stone (director), Meryl Streep (actress), Tom Pollock (former chairman of the studio), Dee Wallace (actress), Steven Spielberg (director) and Chris Weitz (producer). The films focused on and discussed here include the following: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High“, “Sixteen Candles“, “The Breakfast Club“, “Back to the Future“, “The Blues Brothers“, “Parenthood“, “Do the Right Thing“, “Out of Africa“, “Field of Dreams“, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and this film.
- D-BOX motion code is included for those with the proper equipment to decode it. This isn’t listed on the back of the packaging but it is present in the pop-up menu on the disc.
- A DVD of the film in standard definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is included. This features two of the bonus materials listed above, the Feature Commentary with Director Oliver Stone and the “From the NBC News Archives – Backstory: Born of the Fourth of July” featurette.
- A Digital Copy of the film is included which can be redeemed online via the URL and code on a paper insert in the packaging.
Overall the bonus materials here prove to be pretty short with not enough content that focuses directly on this film specifically but they do prove to be very worthwhile, entertaining, informative and such. The original DVD bonus materials of the audio commentary and “backstory” featurette from the NBC archives both prove to be very worth checking out if you’ve never heard or seen them before. The new “100 Years of Universal” featurettes both prove to be very entertaining as well. The inclusion of a DVD & Digital Copy of the film is very nice to see as well as D-BOX motion code.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.