Walk, The (2015)

Review #1,224

Director:  Robert Zemeckis
Cast:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon
Plot:  In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Genre:  Adventure / Biography / Drama
Awards:  -
Runtime:  123min
Rating:  PG for thematic elements involving perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking.
Distributor:  Sony Pictures

“People ask me: Why do you risk death?  For me, this is life.”

My testicles shrunk multiple times during the course of the film, so I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to director Robert Zemeckis for manipulating my nether region. 

His latest movie The Walk proves that there is still value to be found in films that market their latest attractions through high-concepts, or in this case, a high wire act, and visual effects, or in this case, a recreation of what had been dubbed the greatest artistic crime of the century – the 1974 tightrope wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City by performance artist Philippe Petit. 

Petit is played here by the goofy Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who forces out a French-accented English that you might find endearing (or distracting).  His performance is adequate but never showy; in fact the star of the show belongs to the environment surrounding him, created via visual effects of the highest order.  I think, quite seriously, The Walk might win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, provided it gets nominated and if the Academy decides to shun the bigger blockbusters.

Like his compatriot Steven Spielberg, Zemeckis doesn’t seem to have lost his touch for the spectacular over the decades.  Most well-known for the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy and for such films as Forrest Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000), the director employs the use of 3D in The Walk to great (vertigo) effect. 

The final thirty minutes of the film, which lets us experience Petit’s death-defying and incredibly tense tightrope walk on the wire 110 storeys high (without any safety belt, mind you), is worth the price of the admission ticket alone, yes even for the IMAX 3D ticket.  It goes to prove that the value of such forms of green-screen CG-driven entertainment can be validated when done right and with care for the viewer’s experience. 

For most parts of the film, Petit’s story is told straightforwardly, perhaps to a fault.  Not to mention the entire film rests on the intra-diegetic, breaking-of-the-fourth-wall narration of Gordon-Levitt, as if unabashedly beckoning us to hear his extraordinary tale of wonder and disbelief.  I don’t think it is the most effective storytelling technique, but at the very least, the film wants to feel like it is entertaining you. 

So let’s indulge – watch it, and then watch the documentary Man on Wire (2008), which is even better.

Verdict:  Zemeckis delivers a straightforward visual effects extravaganza that proves the value of such forms of entertainment. 


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