“Why do you dress in black? You look like you’re going to a funeral,” says a random record company executive. Cash stares straight back and says “well, maybe I am.”

Thus is the cool, realistic and uncompromising side of Johnny Cash portrayed in the hit movie Walk the Line.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that Johnny Cash is one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century, being that he is one of only 3 men to have been inducted to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame AND the Country Music Hall of Fame. His signature sound (“steady like a train; sharp like a razor”) carried Cash from the lowly fields of Arkansas to stages all over America, and beyond, and is celebrated even to this day.

Cash arguably spawned some of the best songs ever written, and definitely created some of the best from the late 50s/60s – tracks like Cry Cry Cry, Get Rhythm, Folsom Prison Blues (“I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die”) and Hey Porter appealed to low-middle America in a way that few artists could, simply because they cut straight to the core of what those people were feeling.

Walk the Line stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Man in Black himself, with Reese Witherspoon as June Carter (Johnny’s one true love) and Robert Patrick as Ray Cash, while James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted; Identity) directs.

The story of Johnny Cash through his childhood, starting in Arkansas in 1944 and the death of his brother Jack, to his stint with the Air Force, to his move to Memphis to play with the Tennessee Two in the mid-50s, to his first audition and recordings with producer Sam Phillips.

From there the movie turns into the whirlwind that encompassed Cash’s life shortly after the success of Cry Cry Cry, and the turmoil that the sudden success brought with it. Starting out as a Christian musician, Cash’s story is basically a cautionary tale of what the rock and roll lifestyle can do to you, from his marriage troubles to his drug problems and borderline alcoholism, to his eventual collapse on stage (“fortunately I keep my feathers numbered for just such an occasion” Cash quips lightly).

The movie ends shortly after his infamous performance at Folsom Prison (which was recorded and released as the album ‘At Folsom Prison’, which became Cash’s highest seller, going multi-platinum and even managing to outsell the Beatles at that time)

Based on 2 autobiographical books written by Johnny Cash himself, Walk the Line does shed light on several areas of Cash’s life. For example, I was not aware prior to watching the film that Cash had spent so much time touring with June Carter during the 60s, nor that he had spent time touring with acts like Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Cash’s fade into relative obscurity during the 60s was also a revelation, however not unexpected as it had come as a direct result of his drug problem. I also hadn’t realised what a major part of his life June Carter was prior to their marriage.

As you would expect in a movie of this kind, the performances are absolutely unbelievable. Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely fantastic as Cash, and you believe him when he is desperately searching for drugs or professing his love to Reese Witherspoons June.

Witherspoon is fantastic as well, and she has a fantastic singing voice (interestingly, both Witherspoon and Phoenix learnt to sing and play their instruments – autoharp and guitar, respectively).

If there was a complaint about Walk the Line, it would be that it is fairly predictable. Biopics based on musicians generally follow the same pattern of “anonymity-success-drugs-collapse-redemption” a la La Bamba, The Doors or even 2005’s Ray – however, this movie gets it exactly right by telling a bigger story. Sure there are distractions as Johnny suffers through a bad marriage and drug problems, but the story here is always centred on the relationship between Johnny and June and rarely sways from that course.

Overall, Walk the Line is a fantastic biopic of one of the greatest singer/songwriters to ever walk the earth. I give this one a 9 out of 10, and recommend anyone who likes music to definitely go and see this film. You will not be disappointed.