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 05/04/2008 | christianfilmcritic
Member since : 21/01/2006
Reviews : 263
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Pro An engaging, touching story and exceptional performances
Cons Very little
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"Walk the Line said the Man in Black"

"Walk the Line" chronicles the early years of legendary Country singer Johnny Cash from his childhood days, through to his rise to fame as a singer, his romance with June Carter, his decline into drug addiction and culminating in the now legendary concert at Folsom Prison in 1968.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a really good biopic, one which entertains, educates and excites you whenever you watch it. For me "Walk the Line" fits that scenario perfectly, leaving me fully entertained once the film has finished, in fact despite its 124 minute duration it leaves me wanting more. What also makes this film so enjoyable is that whilst it sounds like a pretty stock storyline it is made all that more special because it is also an amazing true love story.

As is often the case with biopics we get a look at the life of Johnny Cash from childhood, thankfully the film does not over dwell in this area just delivering what is important, such as the accidental death of his brother and the deteriorating relationship between Johnny and his father. "Walk the Line" then gets into the meat of the film and concentrates on Johnny's rise to fame, his decline into drug addiction and his relationship with fellow country singer June Carter. What the film does for me is to not compartmentalize any of these but keeps all 3 areas flowing effortlessly into one compelling story. But having said that, you would have thought the film would have predominantly been about Johnny's music, where in fact I would say the main focus is his relationship with June Carter. By doing this the film does plays like a love story and it is in all honesty one of the best love stories I have seen. There is nothing cheesy or cliché about it, and the fact that even some of the more surprising moments are based on fact makes it all the more amazing. Leading on from that, one of main niggles with biopics is the huge amount of poetic licence film makers use to spice up a storyline, thankfully "Walk the Line" does stay extremely close to the truth using Johnny Cash's own book as the source and also having his son John Carter Cash as one of the producers.

Of course a film about a musician, in fact two as June Carter was a renowned Country singer in her own right, is going to be full of music. I personally like Cash's music and it was a joy to listen to so many of his songs used in the film, and they certainly get the foot tapping. Like wise the songs from June Carter are equally as good and have the same effect as those from Cash. Now what surprised me was that the songs performed in the film were not dubbed, but the actual actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, learned to sing and play in the style of their characters. This really was a surprise but a good one as they are both so convincing that it really did make the film feel so much better for it. It's not just the music which makes the film so interesting but the links to other musicians from the periods, such as Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley.

Here's an interesting fact about "Walk the Line", Johnny and June actually picked Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon to play themselves and I have to say they were right to do so. I am fortunate enough to have seen footage of Johnny Cash from his younger days and not only does Phoenix look spookily like him, but he has learned all the mannerisms of the musician, from the uneasy guitar technique to the slight snarl and most importantly the sound of his voice. Often a choice of actor can ruin a biopic because they are unable to let go of their ego and fully immerse themselves in a character, but Phoenix is so impressive that I feel he was robbed when he didn't win an Oscar for his performance despite being nominated. Reese Witherspoon is equally impressive and unlike Phoenix did win an Oscar for her performance. Now I will admit that June Carter was not a person I was overly familiar with before the film but since watching it have learned a lot more about and indeed Witherspoon has done her work in learning how to be her character. What really stood out for me is the interactions between Phoenix and Witherspoon and you are completely convinced that they are not only the legendary couple but that they are falling in love with each other. Whilst Phoenix and Witherspoon quite rightly are the centre of attention, the film is made all the better for having a very good supporting cast. For me there are numerous performances which are spot on from, Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee Lewis and Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash, but the one which stands out the most is that of Robert Patrick as Johnny's father Ray. Robert Patrick is a man I always associate with "Terminator 2" and to some extent "X Files" so to see him in a role like this was something new for me. His characterisation of Ray is brilliant as you get a real sense that he is a working man who detests his own son for reasons which are explained in the film.

Finally I have to mention the direction of James Mangold who I feel was unlucky not to even get an Oscar nomination let alone win one for "Walk the Line". He brings the film to life with a perfect balance of entertainment and information. Whilst I could waffle on about how amazing the concert scenes are and the fact that you feel like you are actually there or that his choice of backdrops capture the era down to a T. What stands out for me is he has packed so much into the film without making it feel drawn out or making the pace of the film too slow. Everything moves along at a wonderful pace and I can honestly say that there is not a single scene in the film which doesn't deliver something of importance or interest.

Usually when I write a film review I will have watched the film once or twice over a couple of days, so that it is fresh in my head before putting pen to paper. With "Walk the Line" I have pretty much had it on repeat for the last two days, not because I needed to, but because it is such an exceptional film. I honestly can't find anything to criticise in it, everything from the story, the acting, the music and the direction is as near to perfect as can be. The most stand out elements of the film are of course the wonderful love story but also the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who are absolutely perfect in the lead roles. If you like Johnny Cash, or the music of the 50's/ 60's or even just biopics, then this is one I would strongly recommend.

Price & Availability

Amazon.co.uk: £4.98 (Single Disc Edition)

Technical Details

Certificate: 12
Duration: 124 mins
Year of Release: 2005
Genre: Biopic, Drama, Music, Romance

Director(s): James Mangold
Writer(s): Johnny Cash, Patrick Carr, Gill Dennis, James Mangold
Producer(s): James Keach, Cathy Konrad

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne

© Christianfilmcritic April 2008

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Comments on this review

  • Marvell published 03/10/2008
    Excellent Review. Love It..
  • missy0303 published 16/04/2008
    Definitely agree with your analysis of this film....I borrowed my mums copy and then went out and ordered my own from Amazon the next day.....it is one of those films that can be watched over and over. x
  • cat1510 published 11/04/2008
    Great review. I agree with you. The cast was well chosen and the film was better than I expected.
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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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