Possible spoilers ahead!
A couple of years ago a little movie “The Walk” came and went without much fanfare. Chances are a lot of people have already forgotten about this movie, and until a few days ago, that list included me. In case you don’t remember either, “The Walk” is the true story of Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974.
“The Walk” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe, a French street performer who becomes obsessed with tightrope walking after going to the circus as a kid. Eventually Philippe trains under the experienced high-wire performer Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and performs wherever he can, even where its illegal.
Everything changes the day Philippe sees an image of the still in construction World Trade Center towers in New York. Immediately, Philippe decides that his dream is to walk a high-wire strung between the Twin Towers. This will not be an easy feat, but with a little help from his friends and fellow artist/girlfriend Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon), Philippe travels to New York to fulfill his dream, along the way picking up additional “accomplices” who help him plan and carry out the operation.
I didn’t know what to expect from this movie because (let’s be honest), Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis hasn’t made a good movie since… well, a long time ago. And ny worries continued early in “the Walk” because Zemeckis was using CGI on everything, even when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just doing a simple juggling routine. But to his credit, Robert Zemeckis focused more on Philippe’s quest, and left the CGI alone until the climax of the film.
Zemeckis framed the story as a larger-than-life fable, told by Petit himself in an energetic narration throughout the film. This works more often than it does not, and it’s actually very entertaining.
The walk itself, is quite impressive. It didn’t matter that I knew the outcome already, the sequence was still nerve-wracking, exciting and extremely satisfying. Zemeckis and director of photography Dariusz Wolski used some of the most insane camera angles you’ll ever see. I don’t care how much CGI was used here because the angles, and the panoramic shots put you in Philippe Petit’s shoes, and you experience the walk right along with him.
In my opinion, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is still underrated as an actor, which is crazy to say. Here, he transforms himself into the real Philippe Petit, from the hair, down to the mannerisms, and even a realistic French accent. Petit came alive as a character thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s passion, and I would go as far as saying this is the actor’s best work to date.
The supporting characters in “The Walk” are not as fully developed as the lead, but they are nevertheless important to the story and each accomplice has a distinct personality. Charlotte Le Bon (“The Hundred-Foot Journey”), James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, and Steve Valentine, and Ben Kingsley, all get a moment to shine and bring humor to the film.
“The Walk” marks Robert Zemeckis’ return to greatness after several years directing scary looking motion-capture feature films, but there’ more to this movie than just that. “The Walk” is an entertaining and thrilling adventure that celebrates the biggest moment in the life of Philippe Petit. But the movie is also honors the Twin Towers, which even brought a tear to my wifey’s eye.
“The Walk” final score: A