The movie’s opening sequences are dedicated to acquainting the audience with our hero’s small-town lifestyle. He grows up in a strict Catholic household where he learns the traits of nationalism and religious pride that have been the code of his parents’ lives. In fact, his father is a veteran himself, but strangely enough, it is his mother that is encouraging war more than him.
Ron is a hard-working student and a star wrestler for the high school team of
However, his tour of duty doesn’t go too well. There are a series of gritty, realistic, and disoriented battle scenes that show the horror and confusion that these soldiers face in battle. It is during these sequences that our hero is shot twice, once in the foot and once in the chest. After being rescued, Ron learns that he is paralyzed from the mid-chest down, and this sets the stage for the grueling scenes at
The performances in this film are exceptional. Willem Dafoe has a small, but meaty role as another paralyzed veteran that Kovic eventually meets, and Frank Whaley also turns in a strong performance as a long time friend. However, this is clearly Cruise’s film. It is a complete showcase for the actor and every moment feels so real and genuine. He plays the character with such raw emotion that I can’t help but believe the real Ron Kovic was astonished at how true the performance turned out.
The most emotional scenes in the movie are when Kovic first returns home. It is an incredibly powerful and alarming experience to watch this warrior return home to his neighborhood in a wheelchair. Ron makes it clear that he doesn’t want his family’s pity, but he can’t help looking into their eyes and seeing how devastated they are. His parents in the film are played by Raymond J. Barry and Caroline Kava, and they are brilliant in these scenes, putting up an incredible effort to match Cruise’s on-screen magic.
In spite of all the greatness, it is in these particular scenes that the film finds its flaw. It’s not that they aren’t masterfully executed; it’s just the fact that they appear too early in the film. Kovic’s return home was undoubtedly the emotional