Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Running Time: 123 mins
The Walk is an American film about the true story of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who recruited an undercover team to help him achieve his dream of walking on a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.
Out of absolutely nowhere, Robert Zemeckis’ ‘The Walk’ is one of the best films of this year! It’s a biographical drama with a lot of heart and a lot humour, as well as spectacular visuals, brilliant performances and a hugely captivating plot that both thrills and tells a fascinating true story.
It’s hard to believe it, given the sheer audacity of it all, but this whole story really is true. The 2008 documentary Man On Wire tells the tale in more factual detail, but The Walk is a far more engrossing and enjoyable viewing experience.
In the role of the high-wire performer Philippe Petit, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an excellent job. Not only does he pull of the French accent and actual French-language dialogue superbly, but his portrayal of Petit makes him a character that, despite being completely mad, is infectiously likeable, what with a wide smile and a wonderful sense of adventure to make his dreams become a reality.
The story in itself is centred around the famous high-wire performance across the Twin Towers, but the first two-thirds of the movie actually look more at Petit’s life in France, and his relationships with the various people that he recruits on his way to realising this feat.
In classic Robert Zemeckis style, that part of the story is full of brilliant heart and a positive atmosphere that makes it impossible not to enjoy, in similar fashion to Zemeckis’ acclaimed Forrest Gump. What’s more is that the directing and cinematography presents France as an almost enchanted land, full of vibrant colours and quirky personalities, something else that contributes hugely to the enjoyability factor of the first two-thirds of the film.
In the latter stages, we see the actual high-wire act undertaken at the World Trade Centre, and my goodness is it worth the wait.
Firstly, the story begins to take on the structure and feel of a heist movie as Petit and his accomplices attempt to dodge the authorities to set up the wire atop the skyscrapers, and that is hugely exciting, tense, and again simply fun to watch all the time, adding another different level to this uniquely entertaining story.
And then, the actual event is simply astonishing to watch. I felt totally and utterly entranced by the entire spectacle as Petit makes his steps out over the terrifying void between the towers. Here, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s acting is beautifully serene as he shows Petit finally achieving his dream, whilst the visuals are absolutely stunning.
On the one hand, there are the vertigo-inducing shots of the deep void below the wire that make your legs turn to jelly (even in 2D), but also, Zemeckis presents the atmosphere surrounding Petit on the wire as a serene, dreamlike place to represent the delight he feels having accomplished this feat, and it is by far one of the most pleasant and beautiful cinematic sequences we’ve seen in a long time.
So, overall, The Walk is not only a hugely entertaining and upbeat film, but it also features a brilliant central performance, sublime directing, a fascinating story, and some extraordinary visuals that all come together to make a wonderfully enjoyable and captivating movie to watch, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.6.