Sunday, June 01, 2008

REVIEW: Walk the Line

Walk the Line

Year: 2005
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Shelby Lynne
Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
MPAA: Rated PG-13

After reviewing the great, but exhausting Indiana Jones trilogy, I thought id review something alittle less big. That's when I stumbled upon Walk the Line. The movie was always in my review basket, but it wasn't until today that I decided to give it a look. After the 2004 biopic hit "Ray", it was a given that we would see more musical biopics in the future. That's where Walk the Line walks in. The movie that many movie studios passed up on until Fox finally gave a look at it. It took over 4 years for this project to finally get green lighted for production. I personally haven't seen any musical biopics even Taylor Hackford's 2004 hit, Ray. I didn't even know who Johnny Cash was or haven't heard of any of his songs. So when this film opened wide in 2005, I just didn't care about it. I mean why should I go see a movie that I'm not even a fan of. That was my reason for not giving this film a chance. That changed when I started seeing this film getting rave reviews across the critics and making millions of dollars around the world. I couldn't just sit there while everybody was talking about it. So I decided to look into this movie and see what everyone's been fussing about.

Plot Outline:
As a young boy Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) lived a hard life in Arkansas in a farm house with his hard working family. Hes had a close bond with his older brother Jack (Lucas Till). When his brother died in a accident. Johnny's father Ray (Robert Patrick) blames his son on the incident for not being there for his older brother. Johhny grows up and comes back to marry his girlfriend Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin) and start a family. Johnny is unhappy with his salesman job and decides to start a band with his friend Luther Perkins (Dan John Miller) and Marshall Grant (Larry Bagby) to find work as musicians. He meets a music producer who gives Johnny and his band a chance. When their song becomes a hit on the radio, Johnny and his band are traveling with other musicians like Elvis Presley (Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Malloy Payne), Roy Orbinson (Johnny Holiday) and June Carter (Resse Witherspoon), a woman which Johnny respects her talented beautiful voice. His wife feels lost without her husband and she doesn't seems to support his music abilities or doesn't care for his talent. Johnny has strong feelings for June, while his marriage is falling apart and his drug habit is starting to show.

The story is great with many moments that really capture the feeling of Johnny Cash. Now I'm not the biggest Johnny Cash fan nor have I listened to his songs. So this was the first time ever experiencing anything released to Cash. The plot is very interesting and satisfying. I'm not surprised the movie was nominated for alot of Awards. I never thought a biopic about Johnny Cash would actually be this good, but it is. The story has alot of key elements that made me sit their and grasp all this information about the famous artist without getting too technical. The story isn't original by all means, but it does work. It kind of resembles that of Ray, but its something that the real Johnny Cash went through so I cant complain. My only let down about the story is that it kind of starts off slow in the beginning. Its not long before the story picks up, but that slow start kind of bugs me. Walk the Line also tends to get alittle melodramatic at parts, but its nothing that's going to annoy you. The characters are all great and have many problems of their own in the story. Johnny Cash is very creative and very talented in the movie just like he is in real life. For a movie that took over 4 years to make, Walk the Line isn't really the movie we have been expecting it to be, but it comes damn near close.

The cast is also great. For a movie about a specific person's life, its pretty hard these days to find actors trying to fill in the main characters role. I'm happy to say this is great casting by the studio. Joaquin Phoenix plays the main title Johnny Cash and he gives an Oscar worthy performance. I cant believe that Joaquin Phoenix did not get an Oscar for his role as Cash. He whole heartily deserved it. Its not easy playing Cash especially since your going to have to sing his songs in the movie and I cant believe Phoenix did. He sang all his songs and did nit lip sync which is really impressive. Reese Witherspoon plays as June Carter and she also does a good job in her role. Witherspoon got an Oscar for her role as June, but in my opinion, I'm not sure she should have. Don't get me wrong, but I think Phoenix deserved an Oscar more, but I'm not complaining that Witherspoon got one. She also sang all her songs which is really impressive. Ginnifer Goodwin plays as Vivian Cash and she gives a good performance. I wasn't expecting the supporting cast to be as good as the main characters, but they actually come pretty close. We also have Robert Patrick playing as Ray Cash and he too gives a good performance. I really enjoyed his role in this film. Its been awhile since we have seen him in a major movie and I'm really he was in this film.

The visual look of Walk the Line is somewhat of a mixed bag. The movie has been released 2 or 3 times on DVD with the newest one being the extended version, but it doesn't look like the folks at Fox have remastered Walk the Line for the extended version which is a shame. The film was released in 2005, but the source doesn't hold up well. There is grain that is present through out the film. Its not a big issue and not huge like some other films, but its still their. The movie also has some muted colors. While the colors are their, they just ain't vibrant as I would have liked. They are nice and bright especially the stage scenes, but that's about it. Detail is also on the soft side with the movie not really showing what DVD can achieve in detail. While the movie has soft spots, there are some scenes that kind of benefit from detail. Close up shots show some detail on Joaquin Phoenix's face, but that's about it. The movies video quality is about average, but nothing impressive. While the movie's video quality might not be as great as I would have hope, the film does have some really nice cinematography. There are many shots that look nicely taken so props to that.

The soundtrack in Walk the Line is more impressive than the films story and visual aspects put together. Since this movie is a biopic about Johnny Cash, their is no doubt that the film features some great music. We get many great Johnny Cash music ranging from "Get Rhythm" to "I Walk the Line". This film is filled with many Cash songs and they all sound great. A movie like this is bound to have some serious bass work and I'm happy to say it does. The movie has some great 5.1 usage with its dynamic bass. The songs all sound great with the bass cranked up high. Dialogue is very good with everything being very clear and crisp. The fact that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon had to sing all of their songs and not lip sync is very impressive. The fact that Phoenix and Witherspoon's voices sound somewhat similar to their real life counter parts. This is easily the best part about the movie. A very solid soundtrack that's definitely up their with some of the best.

Walk the Line is a great movie that's also a great biopic. The movies story is very satisfying and strong. Sure its not very original and starts off pretty slow, but its still a great movie that captures most of Johnny Cash's moments in life. The cast is top notch with Joaquin Phoenix giving a performance that should have easily gotten him an Oscar. The visual look of the movie is somewhat of a mixed bag with soft spots here and their, but still an average DVD by today's standard. The soundtrack is off the hook with many of Cash's songs appearing here and sounding better than ever. The films bass is nicely used and makes for some great 5.1 music. I really didn't expect this film to impress me this much because I have never seen a biopic about someone, but I was proven wrong. This is a great movie with some fine performances that is easily something I can recommend. I should point out that the story starts off kind of slow, but it picks up soon enough.

Grade: B

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