It's July 4th, 1956, and all the townspeople of Massapequa, Long Island are lining the streets watching the annual parade. Among the crowd is Ronnie Kovic, who, on this day of celebration, is also celebrating his tenth birthday. As a troop of war veterans goes by, Ronnie sees one of them shuddering at the sound of firecrackers as if they were gun shots. Ronnie also makes eye contact with another whose facial expression shows that he has suffered a great deal of pain, and, as he scans the children in the crowd, he fears for what kind of pain their futures may hold.
Little does Ronnie know that 13 years down the road, in 1969, he would be in the annual parade , shuddering at the same sounds , looking through the same pain-filled eyes , worrying about the future of the children around him.
And so begins "Born on the Fourth of July," another Academy Award-winning film from writer-producer-director Oliver Stone, whose film credits include such greats as "Wall Street," "Platoon," and the recently-released "JFK."
This movie follows real-life Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic through twenty years of his life , from age ten, when he played war games in the woods near his home, through his 20s when he was fighting the real war in Vietnam, to age 30 when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of war veterans everywhere.
Throughout the movie, there is an intensity about Kovic's character which never lets up, not even in the worst of situations. At 16, he is shown with his friends saying, "I want to go to Vietnam, and I'll die there if I have to." Ron was actually willing to sacrifice his life for his country, and he nearly did.
This movie is definitely a masterpiece. It makes you laugh a little, cry a little, and think a whole lot about what must have gone on during that war 25 years ago. Oliver Stone deserves great praise for his work on this film. It has the heart and soul of all his other movies. But one more element which makes it even more riveting and heart-wrenching is the fact that it is all part of a real man's life, and that makes it stand out from the rest. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.