The Walk is Breathtaking, Fascinating, and Endlessly Enjoyable
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay by: Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Browne
Based on To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale
Running time 123 minutes
Rated PG for thematic elements involving perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking
The Walk is a biographical telling of French high-wire performer Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and his quest to walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Beginning with his discover of the art of wire-walking, and street performing the film follows Petit through the streets of Paris, and with his wire-walking mentor, legendary circus performer Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley). When Petit first sees a picture of the towers under construction he is driven to walk a wire between the two tallest buildings in the world, in fact, every action he took from that moment drove him toward this goal. To achieve a legendary performance he is in need of several co-conspirators, the fist he finds is Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon), a young partisan street musician, and his eventual girlfriend. Followed by his premier photographer Albert (Ben Schwartz), the acrophobic math teacher Jean-François (César Domboy), and the New Yorker Jean-Pierre (James Badge Dale), who all band together to infiltrate the World Trade Center, and under cover of night install a wire between the towers, to aid Petit with his death defying and now legendary feat.
The Walk is creatively and stunningly filmed and paced story, which rose to dizzying heights, with pulse pounding visual effects. In spite of the fact that it is well known, to end well that did not stop anyone I attended with from feeling incredibly nervous, for one second. The adrenaline inducing terror of the final climax of the film was well balanced with a blending of visually distinct styles of film. It is hard to remember a film that successfully blended styles in this way, and to use those film styles as effective narrative tools. Those styles included a first-person narration, classic art-house French black and white, and a 1970 heist. It was incredibly entertaining and enjoyable, and ultimately a very beautiful film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was instantly likable as Philippe Petit, performing a good portion of his dialogue in French, and good French from what I remember—which is questionable, but it sounded great to me. This is yet another evidentiary performance by Gordon-Levitt that perfectly demonstrates his growing skill as an actor; I would expect to see a string of award nominations soon for this young performer.
The Walk is releasing in both IMAX 3D and standard 2D, for this film the IMAX 3D experience is worth it, it provides an added depth, especially during the climatic final walk between the towers. I imagine the film would be just as enjoyable without that experience, but for me, I would opt for the immersive IMAX experience.