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