Walk the Line: The Extended Cut – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

It can be a real crapshoot sometimes when it comes to picking up “Extended Cuts” or “Director’s Cuts” of films. Most of the time, the fans of the films in question have already picked up the movie the first go-round, but there have been occasions when these new cuts make almost a completely different film. Films such as Kingdom of Heaven and each of the Lord of the Rings films all benefited from these longer editions, getting to expand their stories in a way they never had a chance to in their theatrical runs. On the other hand, many of these longer versions end up being just a cash grab, putting back footage that was excised because it slowed the film down or just didn’t service the movie in any way.

With this extended cut of James Mangold‘s Oscar-winning film Walk the Line, we get a film that is somewhere in the middle. The movie presented in this extended version isn’t necessarily a better film that has been previously seen, but neither would I consider it a waste of time. Walk the Line was already a solid film that didn’t necessarily need padding, but the footage here doesn’t hurt the film in any way, it just doesn’t change it dramatically either.

Added footage amounts to about 18 minutes, but in reality, it’s just an extra scene here and there. All the scenes were available on the last DVD release, and only a few really add to the story. I especially like the footage of Cash writing “Cry, Cry” Cry” after a fight with his first wife Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin), as it shows some of the deep hurt and frustration he was going through at the time. It’s scenes like this that make this is a richer film, but again its not enough to really say you should ditch your previous copy of the film.

Probably the bigger concern when I started watching the film again would be whether or not it still held up after Judd Apatow had brilliantly satirized it and other biopics with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Thankfully, the answer is yes. Walk the Line is a formulaic movie on some levels, but its also a loving tribute to Johnny Cash, his life, and his music and at its core is also a stirring romantic film featuring what will probably go down as Reese Witherspoon’s best performance.

Also outstanding is Joaquin Phoenix as Cash himself. Phoenix seems to be able to get to the heart of Cash, never just trying to do an impression. On stage, Phoenix’s interpretation of the singer’s stage presence shows you just how charismatic Cash was in person, and why people fell in love with him in the first place. Off the stage, we see the man that was tortured by drug abuse and his own insecurities and guilt about his brother’s death. The film provides an intimate portrait of man at his absolute lowest points, and then rise above them because of the love of June Carter, and the entire way we Phoenix always seems to be in character.

While viewing the film cynically could definitely betray the movie’s formula, it’s a testament to the filmmakers and all involved considering just how effective the picture really is. After the film really gets going, it’s so easy to just get caught up in how Cash’s life snowballed. His downfall seems like an inevitable turn, as he and others seemed to be the driving a train and had no idea where it was going while they treaded new ground in music.

One of my favorite aspects of the film is Mangold’s depiction of that era in Rock and Roll. It seems insane that in those days a person could pay one price (probably about 2 dollars) and see Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and any number of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in one show. There’s this sense of freedom and rebellion that springs up in the film’s early music sequences, even with the actor’s portraying these legends doing the singing instead the actual artists.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the movie is how each actor is able to closely invoke the performer they represent. As Phoenix belts out the Cash favorite “Ring of Fire” toward the film’s end, you would swear that it actually was Johnny behind the mic. Mangold and his musical collaborator T-Bone Burnett worked hard to make anything pertaining to the music in the film to be as authentic as possible, and their work is definitely up there on screen.

As far as these biopics go, Walk the Line is about as solid as they get. The film isn’t perfect, but Johnny Cash doesn’t fight giant samurais either. Even after being brilliantly skewered by Judd Apatow, Walk the Line is as good a movie today as it was when it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and won Reese Witherspoon her Oscar. As far as this extended version goes, I’m not really sure that this edition is worth the upgrade if you already own the film, but if don’t own the movie yet, then it would definitely merit consideration.

This is an absolutely terrific transfer from Fox on this disc. The colors are gorgeous, especially early on when the film is exploring Cash’s childhood. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Also outstanding is the disc’s audio track. The soundtrack booms on this disc, making you think you were at the various concerts. The audio never overwhelms the film’s dialogue though, keeping it nicely balanced.

Feature-Length Commentary by Director James Mangold – This track is pretty nice and really brings forth the director’s passion for this project. Mangold seemed to painstakingly research this project before putting it all together and he goes into great detail about the production of the film.

Celebrating the Man in Black: The Making of Walk the Line – Even for a pretty standard DVD promotional Featurette, this is a decent one. This goes about 21 minutes and has a lot of cast and crew interviews, as well as segments with country stars such as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.

Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny & June – This Featurette has a ton of people that actually knew the couple talk about what their love meant to one another and how June was able to save Johnny Cash from himself.

Becoming Cash/Becoming Carter – This one goes over 11 minutes and has the director, Producer Kathy Conrad, Music Director T Bone Burnett and others talk about the process of casting the two leads and then how the two transformed into Cash and Carter, including cutting an album of the famous duo’s music.

Sun Records & the Johnny Cash Sound – I love this Featurette as it explores Cash’s early career as well as discusses Sun Records and all of the superstars that came through that studio in the 50s. With interviews with Kris Kristofferson, Jack “Cowboy” Clement and others, this is the most interesting of all the Featurettes.

The Cash Legacy – Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, John “Cougar” Mellencamp, Steve Pond, Jason Fine, Kid Rock, Trent Reznor, Chris Isaak, Henry Rollins, Ozzy Osbourne, and a lot more all talk about how important Johnny Cash was to music for over fifteen minutes.

Folsom: Cash and the Comeback – Folks not understanding why this album was so important to Cash and his identity will want to check this out.

Cash and Faith – This explores Cash’s tumultuous relationship with Christianity and how faith played a part in saving his life.

Johnny Cash Jukebox: Walk the Line Extended Musical Sequences – Another terrific extra on this disc, this features 8 extended numbers from the movie and has producers and musicians talking about the importance of those songs.

Deleted Scenes – You get two deleted scenes that are not included in the extended cut. One of these scenes further explores Cash’s frustration before reaching stardom. The other is an extended version of a scene in which Johnny tries to cash a check. Both scenes have optional commentary.

Trailers

The biggest compliment I can pay to this film is that in the days following my second viewing of the movie (and the first of this extended cut) this movie is all I can think about. It’s a very moving portrait of this man, and a very tender romantic story as well that resonates very deeply. This DVD is also pack with extras, so if you don’t own this movie already, I would definitely recommend owning this edition.

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20th Century Fox presents Walk The Line: The Extended Cut. Directed by James Mangold. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Written by Gill Dennis and James Mangold, based on the autobiography by Johnny Cash and Patrick Carr. Running time: 153 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: March 25, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

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