- on Friday, 09 October 2015 14:39
- by Frank Wilkins
Don’t look now but there’s yet another film currently playing in theaters with a strong central character which isn’t played by a human. Everest Director Baltasar Kormákur’s mountain carried that film as an imposing juxtaposition that perfectly highlights man’s insignificance in the world, while the harsh alien landscape in The Martian is as imposing a movie villain as you’ll ever see.
Now it’s Robert Zemeckis’s turn to anthropomorphize in The Walk, a film that recounts the amazing feat of Philippe Petit, a frenchman who defied gravity– and authority – by stringing a cable between the twin towers of the World Trade Center back in 1974 and tightroping between them for nearly an hour. The feat effectively transformed the buildings New Yorkers callously referred to as filing cabinets into something alive and very poetic.
What you get out of The Walk – and subsequently how much you like the film – will depend greatly on whether or not you saw James Marsh’s Oscar-winning 2008 documentary called Man on Wire. As expected, the two are very different films, but familiarity with the event, its significance, and its eventual outcome strips The Walk of much of its suspense and intrigue. Remove the event itself and really all that’s left is its historical relevance and getting to know the “artist” behind the feat. Unfortunately, we learned more about Petit, his preparations, and motivations in the documentary and Zemeckis does little to frame the story in a distinct place and time.
The Walk opens with Joseph Gordon-Levitt talking to the camera in a thick French Parisian accent as the downtown Manhattan skyline glows eerily behind him. As the camera pulls out, we see he’s standing on the torch balcony of the Statue of Liberty. Get it? Both are gifts from the French. Subtlety has never been one of Zemeckis’s strong suits.
It’s from this vantage point that Petit narrates the story, giving us some insight into his inner thoughts about the upcoming feat which he lovingly refers to as his coup. What is meant to lend a fairytale, fable-like charm to the story as Petit talks to the camera, actually comes off as a cheap gimmick and blatant use of green screen CGI.
We follow Petit’s life from the beginning as a street performer in 1960s Paris where he learns to tightrope under the tutelage of Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) a famous-at-the-time Czechoslovakian highwire performer. It’s also here where Petit falls in love with Annie Challis (Charlotte Le Bon), another street performer with whom he shares his most private dreams and aspirations.
One of those dreams is his walk between the twin towers, an obsession which consumes the next six years of his life as he formulates an elaborate plan. The Walk, at this point, turns into somewhat of a heist film and the segments of clandestine preparations represent some of the film’s most entertaining moments as he scouts it out Mission: Impossible style. He spends weeks mapping out the grounds, watching workers come and go, and familiarizing himself with schedules and patterns. Petit and his motley crew of abettors, including James Badge Dale’s jean-Pierre, exploit the fact that the towers are under construction. Through some pretty sneaky maneuvers, they are able to get their numerous crates of equipment to the tower’s rooftop. The suspense to this point is minimal however as getting caught scoping out the World Trade Center in a pre-911 world would likely only mean an arrest and short detention. My, how things have changed.
Once Petit’s walk begins however, the danger cranks up to maximum levels and so does the audience’s anxiety. The actual walk sequence is a gripping as it gets, enhanced by the eye-popping 3D effects that open up in a huge iMax envelope. Save for a few cheap gotcha moments as things jump at the camera, it’s worth the premium to experience it in 3D. The camera zooms around and under Petit as he slides his feet onto the cable and shifts his balance from the building’s edge onto the wire. Only a handful of still photographs exists of Petit’s real-life walk so it’s quite thrilling – and actually a bit genuinely unsettling – to see it unfold from the first-person perspective. Warning: those with acrophobia had better take heed. Your fear of heights will be pushed to the limits as will your white-knuckled grip on the armrest.
Though it’s not fair to compare the two, The Walk is an anemic comparison to Man on Wire. Or perhaps it’s just unfortunate that Man on Wire came first. Either way though, Zemeckis’s script, with writing help from Christopher Browne, tries to build character and provide fulfilling motivation on the buildup to the film’s climax, but always seems in too much of a hurry to get to the money shot. The film’s tone is harmless and innocent, though a bit misguided. The real star of the show, however, is the World Trade Center, with its ghostly appearance that still evokes heavy emotions to this day.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements involving perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking.
Runtime: 123 mins
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Guillaume Baillargeon
Genre: Adventure | Biography
Tagline: A true story.
Memorable Movie Quote: "JPeople ask me "Why do you risk death?". For me, this is life."
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Official Site: http://thewalkmovie.tumblr.com/
Release Date: October 9, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man - Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. With innovative photorealistic techniques and IMAX 3D wizardry, The Walk is true big-screen cinema, a chance for moviegoers to viscerally experience the feeling of reaching the clouds. The film, a PG-rated, all-audience entertainment for moviegoers 8 to 80, unlike anything audiences have seen before, is a love letter to Paris and New York City in the 1970s, but most of all, to the Towers of the World Trade Center.
No details available.