Walk the Line is first and foremost a love story. Director James Mangold touches on most of the standard scenes people have come to expect from movies about real-life musicians, but the material is infused with energy by two outstanding lead performances. Joaquin Phoenix passes the test that buries most performers who play famous musicians; one never doubts that he is playing a person capable of creating these fantastic songs. That he handles his own singing in the film is simply a bonus. Even if he does not sound exactly like Cash, he is close enough that -- when augmented by the film's outstanding editing and the emotional thrust of the story -- the illusion is complete. As good as he is, Reese Witherspoon matches him perfectly, registering every contradictory feeling in a smart woman forced to play the fool in public. The scenes in which they duet, particularly a scorching version of "It Ain't Me Babe," display an emotional connection between the two that can rival any movie love story. That connection carries over when the couple is off-stage, particularly in a wonderful early scene in a diner where one begins to sense the spark the two feel between each other. Walk the Line is an outstanding love story, a highly entertaining look at the life of a young rock star on tour, and a showcase for two strong young actors to give great performances.
by Perry Seibert review