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Movies Review

Walk The Line

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Walk The Line
Released on Wednesday, Feb 8 2006

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
Running time: 136 mins
Certificate: 12A

Walk The Line charts the rise of revolutionary country singer Johnny Cash (Phoenix), a man who was to become as notorious for his drug addiction as for his music. Based on his autobiography, the film takes us from his childhood on a cotton farm in the 1940s through to his success as a major recording artist, and then finally to happiness with lover June Carter at the other side of his drug addiction.

On the surface, Cash’s story has much to do with that of Ray Charles, as told in Taylor Hackford’s award-winning Ray last year. Suffering the death of a brother in his childhood, the protagonist becomes a happy family man before finding fame and falling foul of the temptations found on the road in the form of drugs and women before being shown salvation again. However, Walk the Line, rather than telling a well-rounded story of Cash himself and getting to the bottom of his thoughts and motivations, is far more interested in his romantic affair with fellow musician June Carter. The romance, made all the more believable by Phoenix and Witherspoon’s tangible chemistry, is the film’s true heart, rather than the man in black’s rise to musical recognition.

Both Witherspoon and Phoenix have been nominated for acting awards at this year’s Oscars and they leave no doubt as to their worthiness in being nominated – both give terrific performances and bring real warmth to their characters. Phoenix conveys Cash’s mannerisms and stage persona to the letter, whilst the ever-flexible Witherspoon gives perhaps an even better performance as sassy singer June Carter.

As can be expected in a music biopic, the soundtrack is prominent and the invariably toe-tappable tunes do far more than merely set the scene. Director James Mangold made the interesting decision to make the actors perform their own vocals for all of the songs and although this was something of a gamble it’s one that really pays off. It brings a deeper level of authenticity, and although not quite identical to Cash’s tone, Phoenix’s stab at it is far more than passable.

Although the film’s two and a half hours’ running time may be the subject of a few gripes (some of the will they / won’t they could be disposed of without too much harm), Walk The Line is still well worth the journey.



Also reviewed this week: North Country

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