Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon. Directed by James Mangold.
Extraordinary performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon lift this excellent biography of country and western icon Johnny Cash into a class of its own. Director James Mangold isn’t shy about depicting the demons with which Cash wrestled during his career, but which also cemented his reputation as the bad boy of Nashville. It’s not the whole story by any means, but it tracks Cash’s rise from poverty in Arkansas to shortly after that legendary performance to the inmates of Folsom Prison. Phoenix and Witherspoon are a revelation as Cash and his long-time love June Carter, and they performed all their songs themselves. Phoenix especially nails Cash’s unique and inimitable gravel-voiced delivery.