This film has to be seen. Try to see it at an IMAX and be prepared to take either Xanax or Dramamine if you are afraid of heights.
Legendary Director Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk joins Straight Outta Compton, Inside Out and Grandma as one of the great films of 2015. It is a film that is unique, inspiring and visually awesome, not to mention leaving you with sweaty palms at its magnificent conclusion.
As reflected by prior films ranging from Romancing the Stone (1984), Back to the Future 1 through 3 (1985-1990), Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000) and The Polar Express (2004), Mr. Zemeckis has a cinematic history equaled by few modern day directors. Here, he tells the story of Philippe Petit’s breathtaking high-wire walk between New York City’s Twin Towers in August, 1974, and he has you on board from the opening scene.
Let me start by paying tribute to the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, here playing Mr. Petit. Using an authentic French accent, Mr. Gordon-Levitt also serves as the film’s commentator, appearing on screen giving a retrospective of his own story. As reflected by his prior performances in Stop-Loss (2008), (500) Days of Summer (2009), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Looper (2012), this is a special actor who has a talent for performing in very good pictures.
The movie allows you to get a picture of Mr. Petit’s life as a lad in Paris where he began as a street performer. In the process, he meets the leader of a famous family high-wire act, Rudolf ‘Papa Rudy’ Omankowsky, and he soon proves that he has no fear of walking across a tightrope at increasingly greater heights.
Seeking adventure, fame and excitement, he initially walks on a wire between the towers of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, only to become fixated with doing the same thing at the Twin Towers being built in New York. During this time, he develops a small group of dedicated assistants, and most soon accompany him to the Big Apple to fulfill his dream.
One of the special things about The Walk is the performance of several French actors in supporting roles that you’ve never seen before. They make up his small band of co-conspirators, and they add both empathy and excitement to the film.
However, I must give special mention to Ms. Charlotte Le Bon, here playing a Parisian street singer named Annie who falls in love with Petit. She is as cute as she is effective, and she helps Petit overcome his occasional arrogance and fear. Ms. Le Bon joins the talented Keira Knightley as actresses who have the courage and daring to appear on screen without perfect teeth. I admire both of them for daring to challenge the maddening crowd of women that Hollywood produces.
It is also important to mention the performance of the great Ben Kingsley, here playing the high-wire master referred to above. Not only did he teach Petit how to perform, but he also taught him the intricacies of fastening a cable to avoid catastrophe that would inevitably result in death.
Seldom will you ever see a cinematic drama follow a great documentary covering the same subject, but that is the only way to describe The Walk. If you saw the fantastic Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire (2008), you have already viewed the incredible footage of Mr. Petit as he walked on a narrow wire 110 stories above the streets of Manhattan.
Thanks to Mr. Zemeckis’ efforts, here you will see the frantic attempts of Mr. Petit and his small crew as they try to illegally get to the top of both the North and South Tower to string their cable. It is filled with moments where you think that their entire plan will collapse, and their triumph will have you exhaling with relief as you are left with gasping for breath once Petit starts his incredible walk.
The cinematography of Dariusz Wolski is startling in every respect, and you actually feel that you are with Gordon-Levitt on his historic walk. If you are remotely afraid of heights, wait until you see the efforts of police on both Towers as they try to overcome their own nausea while trying to coax Petit to leave his wire.
What adds to the drama is the realization that the Twin Towers no longer exist. As the movie ends with the Towers giving a reflection of gold in the sunlight, many of you will be left with my same feeling, “My God, I’ve just seen a great movie.”