The man who walked on a tight rope between the World Trade Centre towers may not be a familiar to all, but Philippe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) story is legendary. This tight-rope walk is the subject matter of books, films and even TED talks. The Walk is retold by director and writer, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), the master of all that is new in the realm of CGI technology. Which is a critical component to telling this magical tale, because he must reproduce the height and expanse of this illegal project that spans the World Trade Centre.
A story that focuses on a rag-tag crew of risk takers who are led by Petit to undertake the impossible project of crossing the void between these man-made giants on a high wire. With the guidance of his mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), the international crew members find creative ways of getting the wires across the two buildings and allowing for Petit to meet his goal and make the crossing without any safety nets or harnesses. This true-to-life story provides the drama, artistry and humour that builds to the needed intrigue and tension that can only come from watching a high-wire performer and provides a beautiful testament to The World Trade Centre and ’70s New York City.
The Walk is told in a fairy-tale manner which allows for mystical type character development and the necessary magic for a journey of this nature. The narrative provided by Joseph Gordon-Levitt feels cringe-worthy at first, because of his attempt at the French accent, but becomes appealing and believable, due to the narrator styling. He delivers a solid performance in the lead role. Some of the supporting cast felt underused, but they all did a decent performance with the screen time they had.
It’s a gripping portrait of artistic obsession—that inability to admit defeat even in the face of impossible odds. Perhaps, sometimes,the more incensed and impatient side of this otherwise amiable guy might be exposed, but once he finally reaches the roof of the southern twin tower with mounds and mounds of imperative (daredevil) equipment, you want this for him almost as much as he does. Thus, it becomes an undeniably fun caper with a mischievous score that recalls the audacity of Ocean’s crew. Subsequently, a beautiful, soaring score greets us as the vastness of the city and the romantic posture of the horizon comes into view on the roof; if Phillip falls, it would surely be a glorious death. Inevitably but understandably, some doubt the necessity of a documentary remake.
In this case, what was frankly unclear throughout those interviews was lucidly visualized here. Vague descriptions and mappings could only take your imagination so far, which is why veteran director Robert Zemeckis prioritizes absolute audience involvement by implementing suspenseful excitement into sequences that see this group break in past security, maintaining feverish pacing in the process.
The beauty of Paris and New York City are greatly enhanced in all their lavish detail, and the depth in those daunting shots that look down from lofty heights makes the experience drastically more immersive. As the camera glides from the top of a tower down to the very streets of New York, you could almost feel that rush. The Walk finds every possible technical maneuver in amping up the audience’s anxiety during these scenes–close-ups of Phillip’s sweat or carefully- placed feet balancing on a slightly vibrating rope, followed by the camera’s panning and circling around Petit’s various tricks on the wire which only increase in difficulty.
Couple things I didn’t like were the scenes where Joseph Gordon Levitt was narrating the story to us. I think keeping it as a voice-over would have been a better choice. The 3D was perfect for ‘The Walk on the Wire” and the rooftop of the WTC, but for most of the movie it was totally unnecessary.
It is not a perfect film, but Zemeckis provides an entertaining experience for all ages. Petit’s story is compelling and inspiring, which is captured in this dramatic retelling.
The Walk gets a 7.8/10.