The late Johnny Cash, who died in September 2003 only four months after his beloved wife June Carter, was or rather is one the most revered artists of our time. He shares after all a spot in the music hall of fame with the likes of Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis (a.k.a. ‘The Killer’). Big John Cash came out of Arkansas’ cotton fields to become one of the great American artists of the 20th century and he is bound to influence and inspire generations to come. This year’s Walk the Line tells the story of a man who became a legend, a true American icon.Through an awful lumber mill accident that killed Johnny’s brother Jack, to the gig in Folsom Prison in 1968 and the marriage to the love of his life June Carter (Reese Whitherspoon), we are introduced to a man who loved his black suits, had a message to get across but unfortunately also had a minor drug addiction. In the end, however, he truly walked the line.
Walk the Line is an excellent movie. Whether it is this year’s Ray, however, is another question. Ray was heavy on drama and had Jamie Foxx who gave an amazing performance. Writer/director James Mangold’s Johnny Cash biopic (named after one of Cash’s most famous songs) on the other hand seems to be more concerned with telling the story of an utterly heartwarming romance between the two leads rather than plunging into the depths of the complexity of its main character. But Mangold just hit the right tone with this power chord. Walk the Line is driven by a killer soundtrack and its cast Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, The Village) and Reese Whitherspoon (Cruel Intentions and some movie with her being legally blonde or something), who turn in the performance of their lifetime. While Foxx lip-synched to Ray Charles’ unique sound and voice, Mangold took the riskier option of having his stars providing the vocals. And even though there is nothing like the real deal, his gamble pays off handsomely. We would love to see the leads holding golden statuettes come March, even though Joaquin Phoenix has got heavy competition in the form of Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote). Whitherspoon’s near future, on the contrary, looks promising. We keep our fingers crossed. (3 out of 4 rings of fire)