Review: Walk the Line (2005)

Walk the Line opens as the camera pans over Folsom Prison in California; there is a light thumping noise. As the camera winds down the prison corridors, past the empty cells, the thumping grows more intense. Finally we see where the camera is heading; a stage within the prison walls as a crowd of inmates clap their hands in anticipation. They are waiting for Johnny Cash to enter the room and begin a now legendary performance.

Walk the Line is the slightly romanticized biopic of singer Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an intense and convincing portrayal of the Man in Black but it is Reese Witherspoon who shines as June Carter, Cash’s creative partner and eventual second wife. Their performances as the legendary country duo alone are enough reasons to see this film.

The picture follows the early life and career of Johnny Cash. Starting from his depressing childhood in rural Arkansas when his beloved older brother was killed to his humble beginnings as a recording artist and his life on the road. On the road, Cash meets and instantly falls for June Carter, a country singer who is more a personality than a voice. The movie then follows their relationship as Cash battles drug addictions and June’s refusal to marry Johnny.
Reese Witherspoon is the highlight of this picture that is drenched with excellent images and the music of Johnny and June Carter Cash. As in most of her performances, Witherspoon possesses her usual sass and charm and by dying her hair brown, she makes you forget about the Legally Blonde films. This is a role she was born to play.

Walk the Line shatters the biopic stereotypes. Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix deserve every accolade they have received this season. And the music is pretty damn good too.

Updated October 10, 2010