Riding on the coattails of the successful and acclaimed film Ray comes the life story of Johnny Cash. Walk the Line, adapted from the novel The Man in Black, places Joaquin Phoenix in the role of the legendary country singer. Similarly to Ray, Walk the Line has garnished critical acclaim for both the film (which was a surprise omission in the Best Picture category at the Oscars) and the lead roles of Phoenix and Witherspoon (both of whom won best actor/actress and the Golden Globe…, and are nominated at the Oscars).
More then the music, this film focuses on the downward spiraling emotional state of Cash, and his addiction to drugs to try to constrain his inner demons. The story starts with a glimpse into Cash’s childhood where we see a strong bond with his brother and meet his emotionally abusive father. After his brothers accidental death, and the emotional scaring his father puts him through, we fast forward to Johnny’s moving away from home.
After serving time in the military, Johnny returns to marry and have a child. Working as a door-to-door salesman, and struggling to pay the bills, Johnny gets his break when he auditions for a local record producer. Before long, Johnny is the hottest new performer, spending most of his time touring away from his family. This constant distance between them starts to drive Johnny and his wife apart, and into the arms of fellow performer June Carter.
The remainder of the story deals with Cash fighting with drug addiction and trying to piece together his life. After hitting rock bottom, June helps Johnny get sober, helps to get his career back on track, and ends up marrying him.
The story of Cash’s life reads very similarly to many other performers… proving that life in the spotlight is not always the easiest life to live. This film is superbly acted by all involved; Phoenix and Witherspoon give career defining performances (and even perform all of the music in the film themselves). Walk the Line is a powerful film that will be enjoyed by most… especially those who are a fan of The Man in Black’s music.
Walk the line has received a beautiful 2.39:1 anamorphic transfer. The print is pristine, with barely a blemish to be noticed. The colors are well represented, and the contrast is solid. Digital artifacts, such as edge enhancements and pixilation are also not present. All-in-all, Fox has done a very nice job with the video transfer on this disc.
Sporting both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, this disc sounds almost as good as it looks. The most important auditory factor for this film, the music, comes across very nicely. The surround channels help to fill the soundstage, placing you right in the middle of the music. I notice the dialog to be quite at times, having to turn the volume up to make out what was being said. Other then this dialog mixing issue, this disc came across sounding very good – with a slight edge to the DTS track, which contained deeper bass and sounded a little richer).
While a plethora of special features are available on the 2-disc Collector’s Edition, this disc only features an audio commentary, deleted scenes, and trailers. The audio commentary is conducted by co-writer and director James Mangold, and is a very in-depth and compelling commentary. Mangold teaches about the story, the filmmaking process, and even starts of by reading the screenplay as the scene unfolds. The 10 deleted scenes included on this disc are also very good. I could someday see these inserted back into a director cut of the film in a later release. I really appreciated how the deleted scenes were framed by footage from the final cut, so you could tell how they fit into the story. Lastly, this disc includes a couple of theatrical trailers.
Phoenix and Witherspoon really make this movie as good as it is. Sure, the story is captivating enough, but the actors make it real. This disc is very well done, with excellent audio and video, and a couple of valuable extras. I would say that the Collector’s Edition would be a bit more valuable then this release due to the extra special features, but this release is still very good.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes