Film reviews

Walk the Line, Dir; James Mangold, Cert; 12A.

I’m not, in general, someone who gets over emotional at films – especially at the cinema – but this spellbinding, juggernaut of a biopic pretty much had me blubbing like Barrymore by the time it reached its conclusion.

The reason “Walk the Line” works so well is primarily down to the exquisite and mind-blowingly intense performances of the movie’s two main stars.
It’s impossible not to draw a parallel between the film’s subject – Johnny Cash – and its main star, Joaquin Phoenix, given their similar histories; like Cash, Phoenix lost an older brother long before his time, and both men have battled against some form of addiction. Perhaps these things even helped propel the current actor into the shoes of the former musician.

Going right back to the beginning, the viewer cannot fail to be disturbed by the verbal and mental cruelty dealt out by Ray Cash, chillingly played here by Robert Patrick, as he effectively blames the accidental death of his “favourite son” Jack (Lucas Till) firmly at the feet of the young Johnny – or JR (Ridge Canipe). Indeed, one of the pivotal moments in the film comes where Cash later turns around a question his father had asked him at the time of the tragedy – “Where were YOU?”

So then, to Witherspoon. Sure, Ginnifer Goodwin turns in a fine performance herself as Cash’s put-upon, impoverished and increasingly despairing first wife, but it is ultimately Mrs. Ryan Phillippe who steals the show.

June Carter. To all intents and purposes, rescued Johnny Cash from the wreck of a man he was surely becoming, and it is testament to Witherspoon’s remarkable acting ability that she manages to capture all the best aspects of the singer’s late wife’s larger than life persona in such a short space of time. Her portrayal can be described no other way than simply “breathtaking”.

One of the most pleasing things about the film, for me at least, was the actors’ decision not to mime to the original tracks, but to perform them themselves. This was something of a revelation, as both stars proved more than capable of delivering the goods, and somehow it gave an altogether more authentic feel to the movie itself.

I talked a moment ago about June Carter being a larger than life figure, but we are left in no doubt of the magnitude of her late husband’s big heart at the end of the film where we learn that Cash has largely forgiven, and buried the hatchet with, a father who had, throughout his life, neglected his one remaining son, telling him he was “nuthin’” even when he was at the peak of his success.

Given that I have only given 20 films a perfect “10” rating over the 1,000+ that I have viewed in my lifetime, I’ve got to tell you that this one is as damn near perfect as we’re likely to get this decade.

Utterly compelling. 10/10


Tone E


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