If you’ve ever had a dream and risked everything to try to achieve it, then you are likely to feel an extra jolt of electricity course through your body when you see Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) step over the ledge of New York’s World Trade Center in the glorious new film, The Walk. A movie that celebrates passion and the act of giving all you have to accomplish a goal.
Renowned writer/director, Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump), has delivered a touching and beautifully rendered work of art that connects with our primal human instinct and drive to explore the unknown and rebelliously stretch our limits, regardless of cost; and he pulls off this storytelling triumph in a visually stunning manner that is astounding.
A refresher: In 1974, French street and circus performer, Philippe Petit, together with a handful of helpers, secretly planned and executed the illegal exploit of stretching a high-wire across the void between the two World Trade Center towers and then walked between them, repeatedly, for almost an hour – and didn’t die!
The Walk tells the story of the man (played by Gordon-Levitt) and his obsession, but it’s also a metaphor for the whole of human achievement; as well as a touching and tactful tribute to New York’s former Twin Towers.
The film is based on Petit’s biography, To Reach the Clouds, and if you saw the 2008 Oscar winning documentary film, Man on Wire, then you are already very familiar with the movie’s material. But the documentary, good as it is, is no match for Zemeckis’ storytelling and visual prowess – which puts you in Petit’s shoes as he attempts his famous feat.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a good actor and it’s my understanding that he did much of the wire-walking in this film himself (under the tutelage of Petit), which is pretty amazing. But if I had one complaint about this movie it would be that his French accent was off-putting, at least initially – because, Dude, we know you are not French. I eventually got over this and settled into the actor’s fine performance, but the way he is literally in your face with it at the beginning was distracting to say the least.
The movie also has nice performances by Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy, Petit’s high-wire-walking mentor; and Charlotte Le Bon as Annie Allix, as his love interest and accomplice. The French actor, Cesar Domboy, is also very good as Petit’s mathematician and assistant, who is deathly afraid of heights.
I screened this film in IMAX 3D and I recommend seeing it in that format. The World Trade Center scenes are breathtaking and worth the few extra bucks – that is unless you have issues with vertigo, in which case you may want to avoid this movie altogether, or plan to keep your eyes shut through much of it.
The Walk is a great film and a perfect addition to Zemeckis’ highly regarded resume. It’s a movie that masterfully uses artful symbolism to tell the story of an artfully symbolic act that resonates within the human psyche. The moment Petit begins his walk across the wire is one of the most wonderful bits of filmmaking I’ve ever seen on screen. Grade: 9/10
Photos © 2015 Sony Pictures Entertainment