Two wonderful central performances fro Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon help power this splendid Johnny Cash biopic from director James Mangold.
There are many pitfalls surrounding films about musicians, ranging from the difficulty of recreating the magic of a well known performer to the clichéd “rise, fall and redemption” plot line that attaches itself like a limpet to these kinds of story. Walk The Line not only avoids these pitfalls, it also manages to recreate and celebrate the life and music of Cash with such enthusiasm and class that it is hard to resist. Beginning with Cash preparing to perform in front of inmates at Fulsom prison, it flashes back to his childhood and charts his development from his time in the army to country music icon. Phoenix (bearing a striking resemblance to the man in black) conveys the brooding darkness that drove him as a performer as well as delivering a tremendous vocal performance. Witherspoon, as June Carter (Cash’s musical and eventual life partner) is equally as good with a marvellous performance full of life and energy. The chemistry between them is utterly convincing and provides the film with a raw emotional core. Even though the story arc is familiar, the intensity and execution of the film make it one of the best films about a musical figure in recent memory. (20th Century Fox, 12A)