Robert Zemeckis, the absolute master of visual storytelling, has returned once more with force to deliver this beautiful film.
More than 40 years after one of the most daring feats in human history, The Walk recounts the true story of wire-walker Philippe Petit, who, on August 7, 1974, walked on a tightrope between the World Trade Centre towers.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who stars as the miraculous Petit, narrates splendidly atop the Statue of Liberty. He tells the story of a child enchanted by the wire walkers in the circus who teaches himself to walk on a tightrope.
Kicked out by his parents, he returns to the circus, where Papa Rudi (Ben Kingsley) takes him under his wing. Later, Petit takes his talent to Paris, making a living as a street performer.
On a chance visit to the dentist, he discovers a magazine picture of the soon-to-be-completed Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre; suddenly, the man has a dream.
Although Gordon-Levitt has led ensemble casts in films such as Looper and Don Jon, this is his first major film as a stand-alone lead – and he is wonderful. His French accent is believable and his voice is warm, filling the theatre.
To achieve his incredible feat, which is amusingly referred to as “the coup”, Petit was supported by a merry band of accomplices: fellow street performer and love interest Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), photographer Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony) and Jeff (César Domboy).
In the film, his interaction with these friends is heartfelt and often humorous. There is a great scene in which Gordon-Levitt and Domboy – who is terrified of heights – hide from a guard, underneath a tarp on a support beam at the very top of an elevator shaft.
The film runs to just over two hours, but it progresses seamlessly. As in many of Zemeckis’s other films (Flight, The Polar Express and Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?), the visuals, particularly of the towers and the cityscape below, are absolutely stunning. The director also continues to break ground in the use of special effects.
With the World Trade Centre now gone, Philippe Petit’s feat has ascended towards fable and legend. The Walk is a breathtaking re-creation.
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