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Walk the Line (2005) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
ImageFor those that are unfamiliar with the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter, "Walk the Line" is it.  There is so much to cover in their stories that the film could have gone on for a lot longer than it does.  And while material was certainly cut to create a more suitable runtime, the filmmakers have done a tremendous job bringing their story to the big screen.

"Walk the Line" covers Cash's rise to fame and the stereotypical, downward effects that stardom has on Cash.  Primarily the film is based on the relationship of Cash and Carter.  Ever since he was a boy Cash had a fondness for Carter.  In his adulthood their lives intersect.  The film portrays their relationship as a lot of cat and mouse games.  Ultimately their relationship suffers do to Cash's drug addiction and basic behavior issues.

There are various storylines of Cash's life that I would have liked to see in the film, but I understand the need to simplify the plot.  I am certainly glad that they chose to use Cash and Carter's relationship as the basis.  Overall, the film has drive that will keep audiences enthralled.  However, there are some dragging moments in the film that serve a purpose, but once seen are not needed again.  That makes the repeatability of this film slightly lower than it should be.  Repeat watchers could probably jump to the musical sequences and some of the favorite moments rather than re-watching the entirety of the film.

The single best part of this film is the on screen chemistry between Phoenix and Witherspoon.  Both actors delivered spot on performances.  Their energies can be felt emanating from the screen.  You forget that you are not watching the real Cash and Carter.  In addition to their performances in the relationship venue, their musical performances are also terrific.  Phoenix nailed Cash's steady-as-a-train vocals, and Carter is peppy and fun.  It is easy to watch the film simply for the two of them.

"Walk the Line" has been released on standard DVD a few times, and each time the studio finds something great to add to it.  Admirers of the film were pleased by the Extended Cut release just a couple years ago.  Sadly, this Blu-ray does not contain the extended cut in a seamless manner.  That being said, the video quality of this transfer bests the previous DVD releases, but lacks that final polish.  Colors are terrific.  They remain bold and clean throughout.  Speaking of, the master print is in great shape.  Film grain is super fine and there is rarely an apparent dust or dirt.  Black levels are almost always deep and rich, which the exception of a couple less resolved nighttime sequences.  My biggest complaint lies in the details and textures, especially the initial 20 or 30 minutes of the film.  They are atrocious during the beginning.  The image is fuzzy and the film is dimensionless.  Once Cash enters adulthood the details and textures vastly improved.  There are still some soft shots here and there, but the dimensionality of the image more than makes up for it.  Fans of the film will be pleased with this transfer, but please don't basis the entirety of the image quality based on the beginning.
The previous standard DVDs have contained DTS 5.1 audio tracks, which was a great choice by the studio.  The Blu-ray keeps a slight bump with the DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track.  The upgrade is certainly noticeable, more than most films' upgraded audio track.  And while many out there regard this Blu-ray's audio track as perfect, I have one major issue with it that prevents a perfect score.  First, the dialogue is excellently reproduced.  Unfortunately, it can be presented a tad bit on the low side.  Ambience is smooth and appropriate in the surround channels.  Discreet effects are not heavy in the rear channels, but they do provide a decent immersive experience.  Dynamics are extensive and well prioritized.  My complaint lies in the frequency range.  While I understand the need to simulate the technologies of the time period in the musical sequences, there is an anomaly.  The bass is not consistent with the stylized choices made for the vocals and instruments.  In addition to the impropriate bass level, the LFE channel is muddy as heck.  I think the re-mixers went a little overboard with the bass causing it to impact the primary frequency spectrum.  Again, this is primarily an issue with the opening sequence and here and there after that, particularly the Folsom Prison sequences.  The primary musical numbers are well balanced thankfully.  However, this bass issues and minor other annoyances to at least myself, keep it from the perfect score.

While the other countries in the world have had this film on Blu-ray for a couple years, they have also had the pleasure of having a seamless extended cut edition on the format.  So, it seems that me that Fox is going double dip on this title when the time is right.  Anyway, leaving that frustration behind, the Blu-ray comes equipped with the bonus materials from the previous standard DVD edition.

While the extended version is not seamless, there are 23 minutes of deleted scenes that are present in the special features section.  I would have been nice to have the option to branch this in with the theatrical cut.  In addition to deleted scenes, there are a few extended musical performances.  Director James Mangold delivers his audio commentary.  Finally, there are the three featurettes: "Folsom, Cash & the Comeback," "Celebrating the Man in Black: The Making of Featurette" and "Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny & June."  These are great featurettes, offering a lot of insight.  Unfortunately, they remain in standard definition.  There is also a theatrical trailer.

"Walk the Line" is a must own for the Blu-ray owners.  It has terrific audio and video transfers, which really only are downgraded based on picky details.  Most audiences will find this transfer to be better than they hoped.  Unless you are content on waited for an Extended Cut Blu-ray edition, then go out and get this title.

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