In 1978, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit defied the odds, and gravity, and walked a wire strung between the towers of the World Trade Centre. Robert Zemeckis directs this 3D biographical drama centred on the life of Petit and the events leading up to this amazing feat. So, is it any good?
The Walk stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, a Frenchman with a knack for the arts, who becomes entranced by wire-walking at an early age. This semi-biographical tale follows Philippe from his early days walking the wire, to the planning of “The Coup”, what he calls his feat atop the World Trade Centre. Along the way he learns the tricks of the trade from Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), falls in love with a fellow street performer, Annie (Charlotte De Bon) and builds a group of accomplishes that help him achieve his dream of walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.
The Walk is an interesting film – Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a delightful to watch as Petit, bringing a real excitement and energy to the character. Beyond that, the rest of the cast is wasted. Ben Kingsley’s mentor role has a few sparks of life, but the rest of the cast falls flat. There’s just not much for them to do. The usually hilarious Ben Schwartz is completely wasted in this, which I found rather disappointing.
Let’s be honest here, most audiences will be here to see the titular walk across the towers. That’s the real draw to this flick – but considering that’s really in the last 3rd of the movie, there’s a lot of filler to get through. Luckily Gordon-Levitt’s charm and excitement in narrating his tale help bring enough momentum to get us through the first two acts. Thankfully, once “the coup” starts, the movie fires on all cylinders. There’s a fun ‘heist’ movie element on display here, as Petit and his accomplices scope out the still under-construction twin towers to figure out how they are going to get to the roof and set up the wire.
Once the walk atop the towers starts, the movie completely changes into something else. The 3D visuals are fantastic – this is one of the few movies where I would actively encourage you to see this in 3D, on the biggest screen possible. Vertigo suffers should stay at home, because once Philippe gets out on the wire, the experience of watching a man walk across across the clouds 110 floors up, is absolutely breathtaking and terrifying. This is probably the best use of 3D effects I’ve seen all year, and this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
When this film was first announced, I was a little confused as to the purpose. Why re-create this story, when it had already been very successfully told in the Oscar winning documentary Man On Wire? That question still looms in my head. The movie is enjoyable, and a lot less serious than I thought it would be, but it really hit the same beats as the doco. Still there is something absolutely amazing about watching this character walk between the towers. Just knowing that this really happened, really adds to that sense of wonder the audience will experience.
The Walk is a charming and exciting watch, but struggles in character development. In the end, this movie is truly a love letter to the amazing work that Philippe Petit achieved, the Twin Towers that once stood above all else in Manhattan, and Robert Zemeckis’ passion for 3D technology, and on those three merits, it’s worth a viewing!
THE WALK is in cinemas now.