Walk the Line (2005) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Walk the Line (2005) Directed by James Mangold. With Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Robert Patrick.


Co-written and directed by James Mangold and based on the autobiography of Johnny Cash, Walk the Line covers periods of the musicians life from his days growing up on a farm in the 1940’s, his tempestuous relationship with June Carter, to his ‘The Man in Black‘ phase, which featured his famous recordings at Folsom Prison.

The simmering intensity between Johnny and June is played out brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix and an Oscar-winning Reese Witherspoon – both actors admirably committing themselves to roles wide-open to scrutiny.

Phoenix’s Cash is a man with his heart on his sleeve – a no-frills ‘guitar-picking-man’ with a guilty conscience. Some of that guilt stems from childhood, and the divide between himself and his belligerent father (Robert Patrick) over the tragic death of his older brother, Jack. The rest of the guilt is over his struggle to maintain balance between ordinary family life and the immense pull of success in the music business. It’s curious to observe, but there’s an introverted expressiveness about Phoenix’s Cash – almost as if the actor is channelling two warring personalities at the same time.

The real litmus test comes in capturing the essence of the music, and neither Phoenix or Witherspoon disappoint; the contrary, they excel. Witherspoon positively takes off during her show-stopping performance of Jukebox Blues, oozing with charisma and giving the impression of a woman completely at home on stage. Oddly, although the songs are pre-recorded, there remains a feeling of spontaneity as the on-stage chemistry between the pair is brought to life.

Aside from the music and performances, there are spells when the films tends to marginally drift. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but there are times when it seems to lack cohesive structure. Whatever the reason – the 136mins does feel a little heavy.

Essentially, Walk the Line is a story of love and reconciliation with some great music along the way. As seems the case with any rock n’roll story, there’s the obligatory tantrums and battle with substance abuse – but in the end, Cash never became a victim of his success. He was just a supreme talent fuelled by the companionship of the woman he dearly loved. 4/5


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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15 Responses to Walk the Line (2005) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Kgothatjo Magolego says:

    It’s been a while since I watched this movie but I do remember loving it. Phoenix’s performance in particular was the highlight. I do remember it being a bit long and lacking a bit of focus at times but I was much younger when I watched it so maybe I didn’t get the subtleties in the storytelling. Great writing man, I really enjoyed this review.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you my friend, we seem to feel the same way about this one. Phoenix and Witherspoon are amazing. I think you’re right about the lack of focus – it seems to drift around for a while. Ultimately well worth seeing, though.

  2. I remember thinking the same thing about the music scenes. Felt authentic despite being pre-recorded. This is a really good movie. Great write-up!


  3. Chris Evans says:

    Didn’t know James Mangold directed this (have you seen Cop Land? Definitely worth a look!), another one for the ever growing watch list. Great write-up as always Gareth.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much. Thanks for putting me onto Cop Land. It’s actually on my (VERY long) Netflix queue, but I didn’t know it was directed by Mangold. I’ll bump it forward on my watch-list. Interesting cast.

      • Chris Evans says:

        Haha, there just isn’t enough time – I keep obsessively adding stuff to my Netflix watchlist but don’t get around to watching much! Cop Land is great (and a prime example that Sly Stallone can actually act given the right material) – enjoy!

      • garethrhodes says:

        I like Sly. He’s done some terrible films, but he writes, directs, produces, acts…he’s a LOT better than many are willing to give him credit for.

      • Chris Evans says:

        Agreed, I’m a Sly fan – for me, his standout roles are Rocky, First Blood and Cop Land but I still enjoy the likes of Rambo II and III and the Expendables…heck even Judge Dredd!

      • garethrhodes says:

        I’d call myself a fan too – I just got round to watching Cop Land a few days ago. Very impressed. Can’t wait to see him as Balboa again in ‘Creed’.

      • Chris Evans says:

        Just checking out your Cop Land review now – likewise, I’m curious about Creed. I just hope he finally goes ahead with that final Rambo 🙂

  4. filmfunkel says:

    Spot on review – I remember Witherspoon stealing the scenes she was in. All the other performers (Lewis, Elvis, etc) were also done well.

  5. Phoenix nails the role of Johnny Cash perfectly and Reese Witherspoon is amazing as well. I’d also recommend to more James Mangold movies, Cop Land and Identity. Both are two of his best film IMO.

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