Walk the Line

"Excellent"

Walk the Line Review


You've got to give the filmmakers of Walk the Line a lot of credit, as they're about to take a lot of guff after this film debuts. I mean, how do you create a feature film that captures the story of a man as big and full and complex as Johnny Cash? That's the question that every Cash fan and country music enthusiast has been asking ever since this project kicked off in the late '90s.

The truth is that no film, book, or TV mini-series can really present the entirety of the giant that is Johnny Cash. So instead, what the filmmakers have created here is a tribute to what Cash seemed to hold so dear to himself about his own life: his triumph over his demons and the love of the "greatest woman" he ever knew, who gave him the strength to overcome.

It may sound sentimental (and even the makings of a country song), and it certainly is. But it was what Johnny Cash was most emphatic about at the end of his life - his story of redemption and love. And this simple, often sweet, and fascinating film with some fantastic performances definitely does the legend's tale justice.

The story begins where most Cash fans have probably only heard about in his songs - in the run-down cabin in Arkansas occupied by the Cash family, cowering under the anger of father Ray (Robert Patrick). We see a young John enamored with songs he hears on the radio and constantly singing tunes from his mother's hymnal. We also see a couple of formidable events from his childhood: the death of his brother Jack and his father's rejection of Johnny as a son.

The film follows the young rebel Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) through his stint in the Air Force, through his struggle to be signed to a record label in Memphis (competing with the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis), his rise to fame on the rock-and-roll circuit, and the partying that leads to a downward spiral into addiction. But the backbone of this story lies in his struggle with those childhood memories, and the thread of June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) in his life - from a tinny voice on the old family radio to a flirtation on stage during his days of touring.

The brilliant performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon really keep this film from falling into formula. A pick who was approved by Cash himself (supposedly he was a big fan of Gladiator), Phoenix intensely channels the country star's singing voice, mannerisms, guitar grip - everything. And Witherspoon's Carter just lights up the screen with all the warmth, humor, and strength this amazing woman was famous for in life. While the impersonations are hardly perfect, the chemistry is, and the duo impressively owns their roles without fear. They give this story a real soul.

Perhaps the film's weakest aspect is what's missing - all that shaped Cash beyond those demons and the love of his life. We get glimpses, such as an early scene that shows a young Cash writing out "Folsom Prison Blues" in a barracks shower after watching a newsreel about the infamous lockup or throwaway lines from June that turn into big hits like "Walk the Line." But sadly, that's the limitation of this medium - not everything that makes Johnny Cash great can fit into 136 minutes and hold your attention.

Undoubtedly, Walk the Line will be compared to last year's Ray, which depicts a similar Behind the Music-style parable of a man of humble beginnings fighting through bad relationships and a strong drug habit to eventually become music royalty. But what Walk has that most biopics don't is an inspiring true love story so well portrayed, buoying this movie out of mediocrity.

Let's just hope that another difference between the two films is that Phoenix avoid whoring himself out as a professional impersonator the way the Jamie Foxx did following Ray. And if he does, I could almost give this movie another half a star.

Talk about a burnin' ring of fire...



Walk the Line

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th November 2005

Box Office USA: $119.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $170M

Budget: $28M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: Tree Line Films, Konrad Pictures, Catfish Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 168 Rotten: 36

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Johnny Cash, as June Carter, as Vivian, as Ray Cash, as Elvis Presley, as Roy Orbison, as Waylon Jennings, Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee Lewis, as Sam Phillips, Dan John Miller as Luther Perkins, as Marshall Grant, Sandra Ellis Lafferty as Maybelle Carter, Dan Beene as Ezra Carter, as Young Johnny Cash, Victoria Hester as Carlene Carter, Hailey Anne Nelson as Rosanne Cash

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.