Born on the Fourth of July [1989]

The second film in Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy moves from the brutality of war in Platoon to its equally traumatic aftermath. Based on the memoir of combat veteran Ron Kovic, the film stars Tom Cruise as Kovic, whose gunshot wound in Vietnam left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is deeply embittered by neglect in a veteran's hospital and by the shattering of his patriotic idealism because of the horror and futility of the Vietnam conflict. While painfully and awkwardly adjusting to his disability and a changing definition of masculinity, Kovic joins the burgeoning movement of antiwar protest, culminating in a climactic appearance at the 1976 Democratic national convention. A powerfully intimate portrait that unfolds on an epic scale, Born on the Fourth of July is arguably Stone's best film (if you can forgive its often strident tone), and Cruise's Oscar-nominated role is uncompromising in its depiction of one man's personal anguish and political awakening. --Jeff Shannon

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