Walk the Line (2005)

Directed by: James Mangold

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick

Awards: Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (2006). Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor, Best Performance by an Actress (2006). Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album (2007).

When I was a teenager and started to wear all black, my stepfather would tease me and asked “who do you think you are… the man in black?” At the time I had no idea who he was talking about. Sure I had heard a song or two from Johnny Cash on the radio or in a movie, but I didn’t really know anything about the man until later as my music knowledge grew. There was just always something about his songs that appealed to me. Dark lyrics, catchy rhythm, and an underlying attitude that seemed to tell the world to fuck off. Walk the Line goes even further by pulling back the curtain and letting us see just who was the man behind the music and what drove him to make the songs that he did. Like many talented artists, there are few demons wandering around in Johnny Cash’s past. An overbearing father, the loss of an older brother who was his best friend, a wife who didn’t share his joy for music, the hardships of living on the road, and of course: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The film also deals with Johnny’s courtship of June Carter as she comes and goes through out his life and ultimately helps Johnny conquer his demons. It is their underlying love story that helps elevate the movie past just being a memoir of another musician.

Joaquin Phoenix is outstanding in the role of Johnny Cash. He simply loses himself and becomes “the man in black.” Likewise, Reese Witherspoon brings in a great performance as well and together the two are just enjoyable to watch. They both even performed the songs themselves rather than lip sync to the original music helping to make the movie feel all the more real. Even if you are not a fan of Johnny Cash’s music, this film stands up well as it tells the story of a man who reaches rock bottom and then manages to pick himself up with the help of others and rise above the darkness. Come and take a walk with the man in black.

Other Notable Films by this Director: 3:10 to Yuma (2007); Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Here is one of the last music videos Johnny Cash made before his death, his cover of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt. It is a fitting end to his legacy and is both powerful and sad. Shortly after, June Carter Cash died. Four months later Johnny Cash joined her.