Walk The Line (DVD)

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Walk The Line (DVD)

Primarily the story of the love that grew between country stars Johnny Cash and June Carter during the early years of Cash's career, WALK THE LINE is ...

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Review of "Walk The Line (DVD)"

published 31/07/2006 | utero
Member since : 11/07/2000
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Giving opinions for several years and showing like a fine vintage
Super
Pro Great music and performances
Cons Always tough to cram years of life into two hours
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"Here Comes The Man In Black"

The biopic is always a risky genre, for every Ray there's a The MC Hammer Story. When I heard they were making a film about the life of Johnny Cash my first thought was that it would either be great or a bit of a disaster. My fears were alleviated when I read that Cash himself had been involved in the production of the film before his death.

For the uninitiated, Johnny Cash was a musical legend that got categorized in the country section. But his music was more than that; it burned with a heart and soul. It was social commentary and like most legends in music, his life was certainly colourful.

The film opens in Cash's childhood when he witnesses his young brother pass away. This event moulds him and from the early days of a young man in the forces we follow him through his first marriage, making that first record and getting success as he toured with the likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. During the tours he crosses paths with fellow singer June Carter and the film mainly deals with their relationship that goes through many trials and tribulations.

A film like this really lives or dies on the casting. A large portion of the audience will be familiar with Johnny Cash and naturally draw comparisons between the real man and the actor playing him. Joaquin Phoenix was an interesting choice to play the man in black but upon seeing the film it was the right one. Phoenix is excellent in the film, rather than being just an impersonation that embodies the sprit of Cash. There are moments when Phoenix becomes invisible; if you closed your eyes it would be Cash you are hearing. The swagger, the brooding, the attitude - its all there. Had there not been a knockout performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman this year then the Oscar would have been going to Phoenix.

Reese Witherspoon won this year's best actress Oscar for her performance as June Carter. She is excellent in the film; my knowledge of Carter is fairly slim so as a result I didn't draw comparisons. What Witherspoon brings to the film is charm, as Carter you see the woman Cash became attracted to. It would have been harder to believe had Witherspoon not had this radiance.

Together the pair do all their own musical performances. It's here where I felt the film really sparkled. All the musical sequences will have you tapping your feet. It would have been a let down had the two actors just turned up and mimed. But the benefit of real performances is there to see on screen. I've read comments where people were sure that Pheonix was merely miming and then got a shock when they learnt it was actually his performance. My personal favourite moment in the film comes when Cash visits Fulsom prison to record a live album. The scene has a real energy and does an excellent job of recreating a famous moment in Cash's career.

Of course with films like this there will always be a downside. It is a tough ask to tell someone's life story in about two hours. Of course there will be moments that are omitted from the film but Walk The Line makes a wise decision and mainly concentrates on the rise of Cash. By keeping things simple and concentrating on the music, Walk The Line becomes a very accessible drama for any audience. You don't have to be a fan of Cash or the music to leave the theatre satisfied.

James Mangold does a very solid job of directing the film; he gets the right performances out of his actors and most importantly makes sure that Cash's music and performance is honoured on the big screen.

I really enjoyed Walk The Line and would recommend it to anyone.

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Comments on this review

  • mattydalton published 04/08/2006
    I think my dad would like this.
  • ally2kc published 31/07/2006
    Excellent review. I wondered about this when it was in the cinemas. It's amazing how quick films go to DVD now a days
  • MurkyDismal published 31/07/2006
    Im yet to see this. Nice review. Cat x
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Product Information : Walk The Line (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Primarily the story of the love that grew between country stars Johnny Cash and June Carter during the early years of Cash's career, WALK THE LINE is the result of intense collaboration between director James Mangold, co-writer Gill Dennis, Johnny Cash, and June Carter Cash. Though both Cashes died in 2003, they oversaw the script's development for seven years. Mangold and Cash's insistence that the film's stars would actually sing paid off. Witherspoon's singing (as June) is lovely, and Phoenix's contains the raw energy and soul that defined Cash's sound. Even as a child on a cotton farm in Depression-era Arkansas, Cash shows a strong interest in music, escaping from his no-frills life and strict father (Robert Patrick) through hymns and listening to the radio. When his brother dies in a freak accident, young Johnny feels responsible, and worries that he will never live up to his brother's goodness. The film follows Cash through his first marriage with Vivian Cash (Ginnifer Goodwin) and into the early stages of his touring career alongside such musicians as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and most importantly, June Carter. As Cash's success grows, so does his relationship with drugs, alcohol, and Carter, putting a strain upon his family life. From his initial audition with Sam Phillips of Sun Records on through his legendary 1968 concert at Folsom Prison, Cash is transformed from a hesitant singer riddled with demons to a man whose uniquely bold style would make music history. WALK THE LINE never attempts to paint a full picture of Cash's prolific career, but instead focuses on the passions that drove his music and on the woman who gave him strength. With magical performances by Witherspoon and Phoenix, a haunting and inspiring American romance is brought beautifully to life.

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