Walk the Line (Blu-ray)
I’m a huge fan of music bios. I find the life of a musician to be fascinating, especially when that musician manages to combine fame and fortune with an immense talent. Much like the previous year’s RAY and Ray Charles, I went into WALK THE LINE with virtually no knowledge of Johnny Cash. To me, he was an old time country singer that neither appealed to me nor interested me in any way. Of course, nowadays Ray Charles and Johnny Cash are staples on my iPod and I can’t believe I went so long without being exposed to their life and music.
In most music bios, it comes down to a single performance by the actor or actress playing the title character. But in the case of WALK THE LINE, the film was carried by both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. The beauty of the film was the ability of Phoenix and Witherspoon to make you forget you were watching Johnny and June Carter Cash. That sounds weird, but whenever you watch a movie based on real people, sometimes the actors portraying those people spend most of their time mimicking their actions rather than creating their own characters. It’s a fine line for sure, but Phoenix and Witherspoon managed to create two characters that we already knew and add themselves into the character to create people that were more than just a face on a CD.
Of course, it helps that Johnny Cash had a pretty fascinating life. He had the normal quick rise to fame, the subsequent drug abuse, finding and losing love and then redemption that all great musicians seem to experience. I guess the difference is that we never stop liking Johnny through his transgressions and we constantly root for him and June to make it. In other bios, we sometimes start to dislike the lead character as they make stupid decisions or fall into various pitfalls. But director James Mangold managed to keep Cash likeable, which was due in large part to meshing Johnny’s hardest times with June Carter Cash. As June, Reese, in an Oscar winning performance, provided the inspiration for the audience and the balance to the troubles Cash was going through.
On top of all the great aspects of the film, the music was wonderfully performed by Joaquin and Reese. Having actors perform the songs is a great trend Hollywood is in and makes for a much more believable film. If you haven’t been exposed to the music of Johnny Cash because you don’t like country music, give the film a try and I think you’ll be surprised. Cash was more than just a country music singer and his influence is felt in all music styles today. Mangold managed to use Cash’s music at opportune times throughout and we never got the feeling that we were just watching a concert. The music scenes in the film were necessary and really moved the story forward. It’s hard not to be impressed by the film, especially with the incredible performances from Phoenix and Witherspoon. Fans of Johnny Cash should be pleased and people that weren’t fans before will surely be after experiencing WALK THE LINE.
Video: The 2.39:1 widescreen video transfer looks wonderful and I guess I didn’t notice it in the theater or on DVD, but Mangold did a really good job of using colors in opportune times (mostly with June Carter-Cash).
Audio: The audio is also outstanding and huge upgrade over your DVD. I would have preferred a 7.1 mix, but the 5.1 DTS-HD was definitely impressive.
Commentary with James Mangold: I appreciate all director commentaries, but Mangold doesn’t provide one of the better ones. He gets a little dry at times and I found his tone to be a little difficult to listen to at times. He offers some decent insight, but I wouldn’t say this is worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes (23:12): I’m torn on the merits of these scenes. In the extended cut on the film (shame on Fox for not including that on the BD), I liked them included, but having them on the BD is just as well. They’re pretty good scenes and probably should have been in the final cut.
Folsom, Cash and the Comeback Featurette (11:46): His concert at Folsom is one of his most famous and here some musicians sit down and talk about the impact it had on music. I didn’t know much about this and found this featurette to be interesting.
Celebrating the Man in Black: Making of Walk the Line (21:37): This is probably the least worthwhile of the special features. It rehashes a lot of what was in the film and features a few interviews with people talking about Cash.
Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny and June (11:25): Obviously, the relationship between Johnny and June was probably the best part of the film and this featurette talks about their real-life friendship. I liked hearing from people that knew them and getting their take on their relationship.
There is also a Trailer and some Extended Music Sequences.