Director: James Mangold
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon,
Robert Patrick, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dan John Miller, Dallas
Roberts, Larry Bagby
RunTime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Day : 9 February 2006
1955, a tough, skinny guitar-slinger who called himself J.R.
Cash walked into the soon-to-be-famous Sun Studios in Memphis.
It was a moment that would have an indelible effect on American
culture. With his driving freight-train chords, steel-eyed
intensity and a voice as deep and black as night, Cash sang
blistering songs of heartache and survival that were gutsy,
full of real life and unlike anything heard before.
That day kicked off the electrifying early career of Johnny
Cash. As he pioneered a fiercely original sound that blazed
a trail for rock, country, punk, folk and rap stars to come,
Cash began a rough-and-tumble journey of personal transformation.
In the most volatile period of his life, he evolved from a
self-destructive pop star into the iconic “Man in Black”
– facing down his demons, fighting for the love that
would raise him up, and learning how to walk the razor-thin
line between destruction and redemption.
Reviewing biopics can be a different approach from our usual
dispersion of two cents worth. There are several limitations
that a biopic exercises over conventional filmmaking. One
cannot jury the plots and the twists of the movie as a biopic
is akin to documentary of a real life human event. To buoy
its entertainment value while staying true to the real events
requires much compromise on the integrity of story telling.
Biopics also don’t usually prepare its audience to the
traditional mountaineering how a film flows, as life explicitly
is a roller coaster. In another word, art sometimes doesn’t
necessary imitate life. It is challenging to walk the line
while reviewing biopics. Reviewers can only humbly focus on
the acting and the director’s creativity with telling
biopics are quite similar, ultimately a protagonist’s
struggle to hold on to his/her soul. Some are phenomenal (A
Beautiful Mind, Erin Brockovich, Heaven & Earth…),
while others are just nonsensically mind-numbing (Alexander,
Ali, Man on the Moon…). Johnny Cash’s Walk The
Line could well falls into the latter category if not for
eminent acting of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
for the famous Man in Black (Johnny Cash’s signature
attire) is focus solely on the Mr Cash himself, thus revealing
another restriction of biopic; that the rest are irrelevant.
Its like watching Tom Hanks in Castaway; Johnny Cash’s
family, his band members, his groupies were all mountains,
trees and rocks under his shadows. There were no notable supporting
cast worth mentioning, or remembering. Walk The Line is singularly
The Johnny Cash Show.
Phoenix carried his first weighty role excellently. He was
able to ape Mr Cash well enough while proving himself with
fine acting skills. It’s a pity that Mr Cash’s
critical downfall from drug addiction is shortly shelved,
as it has all the potential to showcase Joaquin’s ability
to venture into darker roles. Walk The Line also baptizes
Reese Witherspoon into Oscar worthy candidate, shedding her
Meg Ryan’s shade of romantic comedian.
probably won’t learn much from Walk The Line; least
remembers it after a couple of months. But nonetheless, catch
it if you love music or The Man in Black. Catch it if you
appreciate brilliant acting, because after this film, Joaquin
Phoenix is going to sizzle and burn in Hollywood.
by Ang Wei Kiat
The Line is singing a song about staying the utmost true to