In the early 70s, a young French boy lost his heart to the Twin Towers in Manhattan. He had already begun walking the wire, stringing it up wherever he found space: between trees over a shallow pond, between trees in Paris, honing his skills as he went along. But his heart’s desire was to get to New York, and cross the space between the two towers.
‘The Walk’ begins slowly and more than a tad stodgily, as it follows Phillipe Petit’s (Gordon-Levitt) journey from little boy to young man, cast out from home because of his desire to do what he wants, his passage through the hands of celebrated high wire artist Papa Rudy (Kingsley), and his meeting up with the beautiful musician Annie (Le Bon).
These two, and a bunch of others become his partners in crime – because what he was about to attempt was not only dangerous but completely illegal — which leads him to the ‘other’ greatest city in the universe (the first being Paris, of course). The Twin Towers were coming up at the time, and we feel a frisson when we see them, tall, rising to the sky, the light shining from its hundreds of glass windows. That place is now Ground Zero, and after 9/11, the world is a different place, but back then, in August 1974, for Petit, it was paradise.
Gordon-Levitt turns in a showy if effective performance as a man with an inexplicable obsession. His French sounds a little exaggerated, lapsing into occasional flat American twanginess . But given that there are so many people speaking in so many tongues in this film – Kingsley stops just this side of being a ham with his extravagant gestures and a polyglot accent, and Le Bon is charmingly and authentically French – that it finally doesn’t matter.
What matters is the wire, and the man on it; the void below, and his sheer infectious joy as he conquers it. The film, and Gordon-Levitt, shines in this final act, as we watch, with our hearts in our mouths (despite knowing that it is all computer graphics and digital wizardry, even if the bulky 3D glasses make everything too annoyingly dark), breath suspended, waiting for him to come back safely to the other side.
But you can’t help comparing this film to the 2008 documentary ‘Man On Wire’ featuring the man himself. That one, based on Petit’s book ‘To Reach The Clouds’ is all verite, all tight, with not one wasted moment. This new one is a somewhat hokey representation of that truth, but oh, that jaw-dropping walk.
Like the unbelievably fearless Petit, at this high point, you feel you are soaring, weightless, high above the world.
Star Cast of The Walk: Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley
Director : Robert Zemeckis
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