There are a few things in life that rarely impress me. Biopics, musical performances in movies, and country music are on the list. So you’d think I would hate Walk the Line, a musical biopic about country artist Johnny Cash—but I didn’t. Directed by James Mangold (Logan, Girl Interrupted) and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, this film does everything right. Its musical performances move the plot forward and aren’t just for decoration. It focuses on real-life characters without relying on nostalgia and idealized, romanticized versions of them. The music is excellent (Phoenix and Witherspoon performed all numbers live and did an amazing job), the characters are deep and fascinating, and the plot, while not wholly original, walks a careful line between dark and sweet. This is a biopic that would work just as well as a work of fiction, and that says a lot about the level of art involved.
“In the real world, people die, and no self-promoting asshole in a fucking leotard can stop this.”
If you were to go back to the year 2000, when the first X-Men movie came out, and tell me that one of the best character studies I would ever see would be about Wolverine, I would have laughed in your face. Since then, we’ve had movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man 3 that have brought their lead characters and the genre to new levels of depth. These paved the way for Logan, a deep and moving story about the complex character of Logan, better known as the Wolverine. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Girl Interrupted) and starring Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, and Patrick Stewart, Logan is more of a drama than a superhero film, although it will satisfy both audiences. It sets a new standard of writing for the superhero genre, and I’m excited to see what films follow in its wake.