The Walk Movie Review
MAN ON WIRE was released in 2008. Winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary, it told the true story of performance artist Philippe Petit’s harrowing high wire walk between the World Trade Center towers. THE WALK takes Petite’s first hand story from his book “To Reach the Clouds” of his masterfully illegal and death defying accomplishment and turns it into a visually exciting experience, which happens to also pay tribute to the Twin Towers.
Robert Zemeckis, who has previously directed such high profile films as BACK TO THE FUTURE, FORREST GUMP, and CAST AWAY, brings to life another audience friendly film. Capturing the magic of Petit’s climb from juggling street performer in France to achieving the greatest high wire walk ever, Zemeckis matches style with story. It takes a bit of time to get there as Petit enlists his crew of accomplices to help attain his dream, but nce the Frenchman makes it to New York, the film comes alive. As he touches a side of one of the magnificent buildings, the camera runs up to the top providing a visual strength and wonder that matches the massive structures themselves.
The logistics behind breaking into the building as they were finishing their construction in 1974, makes for a fun heist aspect within the film. While the humor and characters are entertaining enough to sustain the film, the tension and exhilaration doesn’t fully come into effect until Petite’s “walk” finally happens. Just getting the wire secretly up between the two buildings is a feat unto itself, but once Petite begins his journey across, the tension tightens. Recently I found myself on a roof five floors up and was happy to get down as soon as possible. Simply watching THE WALK provided that same vertigo feeling as I leaned as far back as possible in my seat, gripping the arm rests. While the use of IMAX and 3D can be gimmicky, the fear of heights for most viewers is palpable on the big screen with these techniques.
While THE WALK might suffer from the familiarity of the Oscar winning documentary telling the same story, I believe those who missed it will be pleasantly entertained throughout. Philippe Petit does most of the talking in MAN ON WIRE and comes off quite arrogant. Where that raw truth in personality works well for the documentary, Zemeckis wisely softens him up by casting the very charismatic and likable Joseph Gordon-Levitt (INCEPTION, LOOPER) as Petit. The talented Gordon-Levitt helps the film by making an easier character to champion, reaching a broader audience.
THE WALK is a great telling of one man’s passionate artistry walking a thin line nearly 100 floors up. But what struck me most was how the amazing act breathes life back into these buildings. While most of the film may fall into somewhat forgettable territory, the imagery and the actual feat itself serves as a great memory to the lives affected by the World Trade Center.