The Walk, 2015, USA
The Walk is based on the true tory of Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a French street performer who dreams of walking on a tight rope between the two Twin Towers in New York. For years he plans the feat, which he calls Le Coup. Along the way he must find co-conspirators and figure out how to make his plan a reality.
This is the sort of film you should either see in IMAX 3D or not bother seeing at all. While the 3D is wasted on the first two thirds of the film, which focus more on Petit’s early life and the lead-up to the walk, once they get up to the roof of the towers, the film is extraordinary. It’s shot in such a way that you really, genuinely feel as if you are up there with the characters, and it is frightening. Rationally, you know that nothing will happen to you, and the audience likely already knows how the story ends, but you can’t help but feel uneasy as the camera zooms towards the ground.
Gordon-Levitt is wonderful as the endlessly likable and passionate Petit. The man is an artist, and refuses to compromise his vision, and you can see his drive and ambition throughout the film. His accent sounded authentic to my non-french speaking ears, as well.
Another thing the film does well is the final tribute to the Twin Towers. I feared that the inevitable tribute would feel off, given the tone of the film, which was very much that of a heist film. But the tribute works. It’s subtle and it gives the audience an opportunity to ponder their own feelings or experiences with the Twin Towers. The film uses a narrative technique that was a bit odd and one that I generally didn’t like, save for at the very end. Gordon-Levit breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience at times throughout the film. I get that we’re supposed to feel as if this is something Petit would actually do and it serves to allow us to get to know the character better. But, to me, it mostly took us out of the action, and it was probably unnecessary, save for the beginning and the very end.
If you’re interested in seeing The Walk, go to your nearest IMAX theatre and see it in 3D. As you know, it’s not often that I recommend 3D, but in this case it’s absolutely part of the story and I think the film loses some of the tension without 3D. Director Robert Zemeckis has proven himself to be a masterful user of the technique.