Plot: What’s it about?
There are few certainties in life. We’ll all die. We’ll all pay taxes. And when the award for Best Actress is read at the 2006 Oscars, Reese Witherspoon will be heading up to the podium to pick up her statuette for her portrayal of June Carter. Yep, in my honest opinion – she’s that good. “Walk the Line”, much like last year’s “Ray”, is the true story of the “Man in Black” better-known as Johnny Cash. Cash was a rock and roll legend who recorded alongside Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley to name a few. The movie chronicles his humble beginnings as the son of an Arkansas farmer and shows his eventual rise to fame as a rock star. Witherspoon plays June Carter and the movie shows us the ups and downs of their lifetime relationship. What Witherspoon brings to the role is her usual effervescence but she gives the movie more depth. She shows us that the film is more about the woman and the man and not just the man.
As the movie opens, we meet Johnny and his brother Jack. Johnny idolizes his brother (who is studying to become a preacher) until tragedy strikes. Time passes and we see Johnny in the Air Force and the beginnings of his recording career. He’s singing gospel with some friends, but a Memphis record producer gets him to reveal another side of his music. It takes off, he’s on tour and before he knows it – he’s got a top twenty song. Joaquin Phoenix does a wonderful job of playing the icon and his performance really takes off as we see Johnny get into drugs and alcohol. June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) is more of his spiritual guide along the way and as much as Johnny professes his love for her, she keeps shrugging it off. Much like many rock and roll stories, there are high highs and lower lows, but we get the sense that being rich and famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Director James Mangold isn’t exactly a nobody. He cut his teeth on some pretty high dollar films like “Cop Land”, “Girl, Interrupted” and “Kate & Leopold”. Mangold gets some great performances out his actors here (“Girl, Interrupted” got Angelina Jolie her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, lest we forget) and though the movie is about music, it’s also a biopic about arguably one of the most revered men in music. While the movie is good, individual performances stand out (which is why Phoenix and Witherspoon were nominated, no doubt). Again, drawing a parallel to last year’s “Ray” (which won Jamie Foxx a Best Actor Oscar), the sum of the parts make for something better than the whole. Anyone even remotely interested in music will want to check this out and see the movie that will win Reese Witherspoon a Best Actress statue.
Video: How does it look?
“Walk the Line” is presented in a very good-looking 2.39:1 anamorphic transfer. No, that’s not a typo 2.39:1. About the only other movie I can think of that has this ratio is “The Incredibles” and, truthfully, it doesn’t look any different than a 2.40:1 movie. At any rate, the transfer is very clean with no signs of edge enhancement or artifacting and I was very surprised at the level of detail in the picture, too. Color balance seems right on target and except for a few blips here and there, I really couldn’t find anything wrong with the transfer. Take, for example, one of the ending scenes in which you can see the individual beads of sweat on Cash’s face. Fox has done a fine job here, and it (literally) shows.
Audio: How does it sound?
The movie comes with two great-sounding tracks, a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS which is what I chose to listen to when reviewing the film. The DTS track is very robust and when watching a movie with music as the central theme, it’s important to have a great soundtrack. Take, for instance, the opening (and closing) scene in which Cash is playing at the prison, the LFE really take control and add a depth to the song. I listened to the same scene in Dolby Digital 5.1 and though it sounds good, it’s nowhere near as good as the DTS. Regardless of which track you choose, you’ll get a great track. Well done here as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fox has done this the right way, they have released a single disc with a good-looking transfer and excellent sound with only a few extras (this is the disc that was reviewed for this review, by the way) and there is also a more robust 2-disc version that comes out the same way. Yes, that’s right they won’t take your money only to release a “better” version two months later. You actually have a choice. For what it’s worth, there are some deleted scenes available with commentary in addition to a commentary track by Mangold. The track is pretty well laid out as Mangold has tons to say about the recently deceased legend. His passion is evident and it makes for a great track. The only other supplement is the original theatrical trailer. I’d recommend the 2-disc version (featuring really cool artwork as well) if you’re into supplements, otherwise this single disc version will more than suffice for casual fans of the movie.