Born on the Fourth of July appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a generally good but erratic image.
Sharpness became the most inconsistent element. Much of the movie showed appropriate delineation, but more than a few slightly soft shots materialized.
Some of those instances appeared to stem from photographic choices, but others appeared to relate to the moderate use of noise reduction. While much of the movie came with ample grain, some interiors seemed a bit smoothed out and these failed to show the expected accuracy.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple small specks but nothing more.
Most of Born opted for a fairly natural palette. Scenes in hot locations – like Vietnam or Mexico – went with an orange overlay, but the rest of the flick chose organic hues. The orange could feel a bit heavy, but the rest of the colors came across well.
Blacks seemed mostly dense and deep, while shadows usually offered appealing delineation, though a few low-light shots seemed a little dark. Overall, the image never excelled, but it was watchable.
The movie came with a surprisingly dynamic DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, as the soundfield provided a nicely broad and engaging presence throughout the movie. In the front, the side channels offered well-delineated and accurately-placed effects that enlivened the experience, and John Williams’ score also sounded cleanly-presented, with fine stereo imaging.
The surrounds added nice reinforcement to the music plus solid effects when appropriate. Not surprisingly, those elements sounded most active during the battle scenes, but the movie found many other opportunities to add ambient effects to the mix.
Audio quality also seemed strong. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
Effects were bold and accurate, as they seemed clean and without notable distortion, and they also provided a solid impact when appropriate.
The music was bright and clear and generated good depth. All in all, the soundtrack to Born presented a dynamic and involving experience that sounded better than I expected from a modestly old film.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio showed greater range and power, while visuals looked cleaner, smoother and better defined. The DVD looked awful, so even with some concerns, the Blu-ray turned into a major upgrade.
The main extra here stems from an audio commentary with writer/director Oliver Stone. He splits time fairly equally among three different topics: general production notes such as remarks about the cast and the film’s development, statements about various historical liberties and the facts of Kovic’s life, and reflections upon Stone’s own life and experiences.
Though a couple of Stone’s commentaries are relative clunkers, this one offers a compelling experience that conveys a lot of informative details and thoughts. Stone digs into the movie well and makes this a strong chat.
With Backstory, we find a 21-minute, 37-second program that ran on NBC in 1989. It includes notes from Stone, co-writer Ron Kovic and actor Tom Cruise.
They discuss the story’s path to the screen, Cruise’s casting and performance, and some thoughts about the film. While it’s good to hear from Kovic and Cruise, “Backstory” exists to promote the film, so it doesn’t deliver much real information.
By the way, “Backstory” offers lots of profanity, which appears to be how it aired on NBC. If so, I’m surprised.
Two featurettes appear under 100 Years of Universal. “Academy Award Winners” runs nine minutes, 35 seconds and offers an overview of some off the studio’s movies that took home Oscars. It’s just a bunch of film clips with little commentary so it comes with next to zero informational value.
“The 80s” goes for 15 minutes, three seconds and – unsurprisingly – looks at some of Universal’s most famous 1980s movies. It brings remarks from Stone, filmmakers Sean Daniel, John Landis, Judd Apatow, Amy Heckerling, Bob Gale, Ron Howard, Marc Platt, Steven Spielberg, Chris Weitz, Phil Alden Robinson, and Peyton Reed, journalist Geoff Boucher, former Universal chairman Tom Pollock, and actors Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Rudd, Dan Aykroyd, Mary Steenburgen, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Dee Wallace.
Of course, “80s” exists to promote these films. Still, it includes a great roster of participants, and they throw out some good nuggets along the way.
In Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone examines the impact of the Vietnam War on a smaller level than in Platoon, as he shows how the conflict affected one of its soldiers. Although the movie isn’t a great piece of work, it does provide a generally solid and compelling experience. The Blu-ray brings adequate picture and very good audio along with a few bonus features. This ends up as an appealing release for a fairly effective movie.