Publicity Stills of "Walk The Line"
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Drama/Biopic
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
Rating: PG

Opening Day : 9 February 2006

Synopsis :

In 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.

Movie Review:

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 the story.

All 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.

Direction 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.

Joaquin 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.

You 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.

Movie Rating:

Review by Ang Wei Kiat

(Walk The Line is singing a song about staying the utmost true to yourself)

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