The Walk (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

The Walk (2015) Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, and Ben Kingsley.

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Robert Zemeckis co-writes and directs this extraordinary true story of Philippe Petit’s (Gordon-Levitt) high-wire walk of fame between the ‘Twin Towers’ of the World Trade Center in 1974. It’s a story that, thanks to James Marsh’s superb 2008 documentary, Man On A Wire, will be familiar to some. This is that same tale, told with a distinctly Hollywood filter.

We’re introduced to Gordon-Levitt, atop the Statue of Liberty with a backdrop of the iconic Twin Towers, proudly dominating the New York skyline, as they once did. Immediately, I found myself tuning-in to Gordon-Levitt’s enthusiastic French accent, which initially, distracted me from what he was saying. As time wears on, give or take the odd slip, it’s not too much of a problem, although the less ‘starry’ casting of a Frenchman might have bought a little more authenticity.

The good news is, Gordon-Levitt is a gifted physical actor, and he does a fine job of encapsulating Petit’s excitable passion to achieve a feat that 99.9% of the human race would have a heart-attack just thinking about. Although intensely focused, he’s in part portrayed here as the parlour trickster; a man with a taste for the flamboyant, but also a man with an arrogance and determination to get what he wants, whatever the obstacle.

I do suspect there’s a grittier, less Hollywoodised version to be made. Like the protagonist, the overall tone is light on its feet, striving to emulate the eccentric playfulness of Philippe Petit, with its frolicsome soundtrack woven around themes of trickery and jest.

It’s in The Walk that the power of CGI really comes home. There can’t be many moments in CGI before this, that have provoked such a sense of depth and scale. The immense size of the towers is stunningly recreated, which as well as being vertigo-inducing (even on the small screen) makes the final act a dual emotional hit. Of course, the towers remind of us of that day in 2001, but here, they’re also a symbol of freedom, which in tandem with the emotions of 9/11, is an uplifting reminder of the strength and bravery of the human spirit. 3.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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11 Responses to The Walk (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I have seen the documentary that is a good if not better. I agree with you they should put a french man for the role. But Levitt as done a great job here. Also the real Petit is still in New York and can not speak French anymore he had to speak in English when he was interviewed by the French Press recently. I am glad I didn’t loose my after being in the states for 35 years. Now that I am back in France I can brush up on my French anyway nice review. I am glad that you liked it.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much, yes, I think this film has some good stuff to offer, but I feel there is room for improvement in key areas. Although JGL is a fine physcial actor, I would have preferred to see a French actor in the part, also, some of the film feels slightly whimsical, which was low-percentage-annoying.

  2. Lloyd Marken says:

    I really enjoyed the doco but the film surprisingly came and went in cinemas quickly. Sometimes you just don’t capture the audience’s interest.

    • garethrhodes says:

      It did, and yes, that is a surprise. I think Zemeckis tried his best to make it as mainstream as possible, although I think in doing that, he prevented it from being as good as it could have been. I maintain that I would have liked to have seen a Frenchman in the lead role, but Petit himself was happy with the casting, so what do I know!?

      • Lloyd Marken says:

        Vincent Cassel is French right? If not exactly the right age. Maybe people felt they’d heard the story already but the visuals look spectacular alone. I know here The Martian and The Dressmaker were dominating the box office at the time and those are damn fine films.

  3. Mattamatix says:

    I also switched off at the start, and in fact actively disliked it, but the more the film stepped on the more I liked it.
    Didn’t know there was a documentary about it – will have to check that out

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, it doesn’t particularly grab you at the beginning, but it’s well worth hanging around to see the final act, which is heart-stoppingly well staged. The documentary is great.

  4. This was actually the second film I watched in IMAX. I think Zemeckis is a master when it comes to beat utilising technology as a storytelling aid. I felt like I was on top of the towers next to Petit and every step he took, I did too. I actually really liked Gordon-Levitt’s accent. It was just enough and didn’t feel overdone or absent. I also really enjoyed the time spent on showing the preparation into the actual walk. It just worked for me.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Oh man, this must have been almost unbearable in IMAX. I have a 50″ TV in a large(ish) room, and my knees were knocking together when he was right on the edge of the tower, I think I’d have been curled up in a ball under my seat, gibbering like an idiot, had I watched this one in IMAX. Very brave.

      As for JGL’s accent, I’m glad to hear that it didn’t distract you, but I could never quite decide about it, which in itself, means I was having problems with it.

  5. Chris Evans says:

    A great viewing experience, especially in 3D – one of the few films (like Gravity) that makes artistic use of the format and not just for the sake of making a buck.

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