Monday, March 13, 2006

Walk the Line (2005)

I hadn’t originally intended to see Walk the Line at the cinema, thinking that it wouldn’t really interest me. However, a few friends had nothing but good things to say about it, so I decided to give it a go and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Walk the Line chronicles the life of musician Johnny Cash from his childhood through to his marriage to singer June Carter. Carrying much emotional baggage from his childhood, Johnny makes his own success but also nearly brings about his own downfall by turning to drugs and alcohol.

Joaquin Phoenix shines in the lead role. Much speculation was made about Phoenix’s mental state during filming, due to parallels drawn between Cash’s life and Phoenix’s life, both men losing a brother at a young age. I’m not going to pass comment on speculation, but it’s possible that a similar experience helped Phoenix become Johnny Cash, as the performance he puts in is truly compelling and believable. Reese Witherspoon does a fine job as June Carter, although I didn’t find her performance to be particularly outstanding. I haven’t seen any of the other female performances nominated at this year’s Academy Awards, so I can’t comment on whether or not she deserved to win. The supporting cast is mostly spot-on, Robert Patrick proving particularly impressive, but there are a few weak moments from some of the less prominent characters.

Naturally, music plays a large role in this film. Both Phoenix and Witherspoon perform their songs and play their instruments in the film. This is impressive in itself, without beginning to realise that they succeed in sounding like those that they are portraying. The use of performance scenes is highly effective and never becomes tedious. I can imagine it becoming difficult to sit through if the music is not to a viewer’s taste, however.

The script is strong, both in terms of dialogue and in the way in which the film plays out. The dialogue never becomes overly sentimental, even though it quite easily could have done so. Overall the scenes play out well, but there are times when the action tends to drag, making the film feel longer than its 130-minute run-time. The direction is at times stunning, the opening sequence standing out in particular.

The film easily handles the more difficult aspects of Johnny Cash’s life and often succeeded in making me grin at its happier moments. All in all, Walk the Line tells the story of a passionate, albeit troubled, man in a manner that is both entertaining and evocative.

8/10

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