Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, and James Badge Dale
Everyone has a dream, an ambition that drives a person to pursue a goal regardless of the obstacles. Dreams come in many shapes and sizes, for some it may be traveling to a foreign land while others it may be an occupation. Some may stand behind you with support throughout the journey while others may stand in front and discourage you every step of the way, but regardless the dream belongs to you and you are the one who must take the steps to make that dream a reality. For Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist, his dream was to place his beloved walking wire between the Twin Towers of World Trade Center and make beautiful art. “The Walk” is a film that portrays the process of making this dream become reality for the young artist, however illegal or dangerous the risk. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the mind behind such memorable films as “Forrest Gump” and “Back to the Future”, “The Walk” brings the audience onto the wire with Petit for every nerve-wracking, nail-biting step.
As a young man Philippe Petit performed on the streets, juggling, riding a unicycle, and performing as a mime. Petit was also an aspiring wirewalker, starting in his backyard between two trees and moving higher and higher off the ground. Guided by a Czech circus master named Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), Petit became more ambitious. It wasn't until he unexpectedly opened a magazine that he found his dream. An article about the building of the World Trade Center in New York called to him, for between the Towers was where his greatest performance would take place, across the void of two of the biggest buildings in the world.
Looking at the progression of work done by Robert Zemeckis will display an artist who wholeheartedly embraces new advances and approaches to filmmaking but still understands the importance of character. “Forrest Gump” comes to mind as an example of character and filmmaking techniques coming to cooperation. Zemeckis attempts the same with “The Walk”, meticulously rendering a grand stage for Petit to perform his greatest act. The rendering of the Towers is beautiful and the imminent walk that the film builds towards is jaw dropping and incredibly composed. Philippe Petit is a strong character to begin with, motivated and determined beyond any reasoning to accomplish the goal he is pursuing. However, the film doesn’t try to hide the arrogant, stubborn, and uncomplimentary attitude of Petit; it’s almost infuriating how demanding he can be at times. The film recreates the walk between the towers in stunning fashion; it really is the whole reason to go the film. Unfortunately for much of the introduction, and well past it, the film wobbles and teeters around like a wirewalker on the verge of falling. There are too many forced ploys at work, both visually and narratively. The meeting of Petit’s muse Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) is a heavy handed romantic angle and the transition between Petit’s narrations, which takes place on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, becomes distracting. The wheels finally start turning once the team reaches New York City and “the coup”, a term Petit uses for the performance, begins to operate like a crime caper.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good as Petit, accent and all, and the rest of the cast, specifically the underutilized Charlotte Le Bon, do a great job of playing their role for Petit’s performance. If you can tolerate the lackluster start of the film there are some great character aspects about Petit that take hold, you can begin to appreciate the ambition that motivates Petit to utilize his skill to make art. There is also a poignant story about New York City and the Twin Towers that Zemeckis weaves into the story. This is one of the few films that I recommend seeing in IMAX 3-D. The finale is completely accommodated by the technology; it’s hard not to become a little apprehensive when Petit makes his first step onto the wire. “The Walk” is Robert Zemeckis continuing his exploration of the potentials of filmmaking.
3.25 out of 5.00