Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley
The elements that make up a great film are completely subjective. Most people want a great, enthralling story mixed with believable performances and stimulating visuals. Sometimes, even when those ingredients are present, the film becomes more about the experience than anything else. Such is the case with Robert Zemeckis' The Walk. The harrowing high-wire thrill piece brings to mind the white knuckle experience of Gravity, despite missing the awards caliber chops.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt dons an almost-believable French accent as real-life Philippe Petit, a tight rope walker who sets his sights on the bare space between the two Twin Towers. Set in the midst of the 1970s, Petit's journey begins in Paris, where his circus performing days allow him to grow, despite being shunned by his family. After crafting clever attempts at famous French locations, Petit and his team of cohorts travel to New York to pull off a death-defying act of visual art. It's at this point that Zemeckis' cinematic adventure really takes flight.
Say what you will about 3D films (it seems to be a format that you either love or hate), but The Walk is a great example of using the process to enhance the filmgoing experience, instead of just having a reason to raise ticket prices. Cynical moviegoers may find the graphics a little cartoony from time to time. As a confessed computer graphics hater, I had to allow myself to look beyond the fake looking Gordon-Levitt at certain points. But, Zemeckis allows a seemingly one not human interest tale become a full-on adrenaline rush as we literally take a step out onto the wire hundreds of feet in the air.
The Walk seems like a tough sell at first. The story was the topic of an award-winning documentary, Man on Wire, just a few years ago. And, in just telling someone what the film is about, it honestly doesn't sound that exciting. Zemekis, perhaps, knows this and knows that the story alone isn't the purpose for the film. Going to the movies is about morphing into a new world for a few hours and The Walk completely does this. The entire audience was enraptured throughout the entire World Trade Center stunt, eliciting gasps and possibly even a few screams as Petit playfully defies gravity. Any sense of acrophobia is immediately heightened as a gust of wind or a casual slip could ruin everything.
The lack of an interesting story could keep The Walk from being considered a masterpiece, but the high-flying effects should be experienced on the biggest movie screen you can find. It's been a while since I've left a theater feeling so worn out and accomplished at the same time.
Living in a post-9/11 world means that any mention of the Twin Towers brings to mind emotional memories and Zemeckis, though never needing to mention the attacks, pays subtle tribute to that day. The towers are almost their own character in a story that is both about humanity and memorial.
Runtime: 123 minutes