The Walk (2015)

19 Oct

It’s 1968 in Paris, and highwire artist Philippe Petit has a dream. After hearing about the massive Twin Towers that will soon be erected in New York (the world’s highest buildings at the time) Philippe becomes obsessed with walking between the towers, high above the earth on a wire.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back To The FutureThe Walk dramatizes the events leading up to Philippe’s dangerous attempt with Joseph Gordon Levitt taking the starring role as the charismatic performance artist. After talking it over with his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) Philippe recruits a few “accomplices” to help him train, acquire the necessary equipment, and setup all preparations for the walk (an act Philippe refers to as “le coup”).

Following in the footsteps of Man On Wire, an excellent documentary about the same event, The Walk bounces back and forth from the events taking place onscreen and Philippe himself being used as a framing device to tell the story to us.  It’s an unnecessary distraction by having the lead constantly break the fourth wall explaining things and one that proves useless given the romanticized nature of the film. The film does do a great job however, capturing the spirit and passion of Philippe’s walk and his pure enthusiasm for adventure completely emmentates from Levitt’s convincing performance. Levitt also nails the exaggerated mannerisms and French expressions of the man, though most of the film is spoken between characters in accented English.

Zemeckis’ film provides visceral tension by focusing in on small details – like the subtle twang of metal flexing as Philippe steps onto the wire, or beads of sweat compiling around his face – so that we feel each anxiety-ridden moment to its fullest.

Unfortunately, these magical immersive moments are cut tragically short by the ongoing voiceover exposition, which seems obligated to provide its own commentary about each new development. It worked well in the Man On Wire documentary – where the real Philippe’s authentic personality and knack for adrenaline shines with his reminiscing. But here, where Joseph Gordon Levitt is simply retelling things we have just seen for ourselves, the commentary just takes us out of the movie.

The Walk works best when the characters stand back and let the visuals do the talking; The Walk looks absolutely stunning and the 3D visuals do a superb job of fully immersing us into the intensity of the event. Though it has an overreliance on CGI at points, the cinematography breathlessly floats in and around the action, showcasing the dizzying heights and dangerous nature of Philippe’s highwire. Those susceptible to experiencing vertigo be advised – The Walk will literally and figuratively take you beyond the edges of your comfort zone.

Bottom Line: Though the story-within-a-story is expository overkill, The Walk offers an indulgent visual feast and a romanticized and passionate retelling of the “artistic crime of the century”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks the talk, but can he walk The Walk?

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: Man on a Ledge + flashbacks a’ la The Princes Bride + feel good optimism a’ la Secret Life of Walter Mitty 

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