Review: The Walk Starts Off Slow But Finishes (Fairly) Strong
Title: The Walk
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Screenwriter: Robert Zemeckis (screenplay), Christopher Browne (screenplay), and Philippe Petit (book “To Reach the Clouds”)
Principal Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, , Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, César Domboy, and Steve Valentine
Summary: 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.
I seem to be running into a rather odd theme over the last month for my movies. The theme is “people doing incredibly stupid things for no justifiable reason shot in IMAX 3D”. I saw Everest a few weeks ago and now we have The Walk. When I saw a trailer for The Walk I first thought about The Man On The Wire because I could have sworn I’ve heard of this movie before. I was partially right only in that one is a documentary and the other is a fictionalized, “based on a true story”, movie. I can’t remember when exactly I saw a trailer for The Walk but I knew that this was going to be a movie that wouldn’t be worth seeing unless you saw it in IMAX 3D.
The Walk features great special effects and an interesting look at the preparation for the walk on the wire, but getting there can be a bit of a drag and hampered by character narration.
There are two things that stood out to me within the first five minutes of The Walk; 1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt sounds like someone doing a parody French accent and 2. why is he poorly green screened on the torch of the Statue Of Liberty looking like Steve Jobs about to give a TED talk? These are two things that were impossible to ignore because the movie kept coming back to them. While his accent was consistent Gordon-Levitt always sounds like he’s doing an exaggerated French accent. As someone from New Jersey I know all about accents that sound like someone doing a comedy version of an accent, so I reached out to a person from France, currently living in London, to ask about the accent. It turns out that the French think that accent is beyond atrocious which didn’t really surprise me.
The second thing was the odd choice to green screen Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on the Statue Of Liberty. In a movie with such stunning special effects it was so weird when we would switch back to such an obvious green screen. The fact that he was wearing all black with a turtleneck made it so all I could think was that he looked like he was about to give a TED talk. The fact that he was talking about this in past tense also sucked any tension out of the walk itself. Of course he doesn’t fall; he’s telling you about this event he did and he’s fine. That doesn’t make the actual walk any less vertigo inducing, and there are moments when you get so swept up you forget that you know he’s going to be fine, but then Petit will say something and the moment is broken.
The beginning of The Walk is very slow and the walk itself is only about twenty minutes of the entire run time. The best parts, for me, is the second act going into the third act where the movie basically turns into an Oceans 11 style heist movie. We watch as Petit assembles a group of people to help him get the wire set, decide how they are going to break into the buildings and how they are going to get the wire from one tower to the next. That is when the movie begins to pick up and by the time the actual walk happens the technical aspects of the movie kick in. As someone who does not like heights (I once panicked on a ferris wheel) there were moments of The Walk where I thought I was going to be ill. While director Robert Zemeckis does take advantage of the IMAX and 3D much in the way Everest did, this one was much more migraine inducing and less subtle. If you’re someone who can get sick from heights or gets vertigo I’m not sure if The Walk is something you want to expose yourself to. The moments when the technical aspects don’t work, like the green screening for the Statue Of Liberty scenes or a bizarre looking seagull, stand out that much more when other aspects of the actual wire walk looks so good.
The Walk is not a perfect movie with the laughable accent, the irritating narration and slow first half, but once the movie hits its stride it turns into a solid movie overall. It’s another one that is sometimes less a movie and more an experience and one that has to be done in IMAX 3D, otherwise it’s just not worth it.