THE WALK by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine
Reviewed at the advance screening at the IMAX Theater of SM Megamall
In 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit strung a tightrope rigged between the twin towers of what used to be the tallest skyscraper, the World Trade Center, for a morning stroll. The Walk takes a close look at this high-wire artist who left the world in awe for his unauthorized death-defying stunt.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away) vigorously helms this thriller based on the true story of Petit: a reenactment tagged as a “grand coup” that follows the same story as in the James Marsh’s Oscar-winning 2008 feature documentary Man on Wire. The story of Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is introduced and narrated by himself from–at such great height–the torch of the Statue of Liberty. It is as if he is a cheerful TV presenter as he recounts the events of his spectacular feat.
Levitt has the charms and appropriate sanity to deliver total madness. He is able to pull off an interesting take with his heavy French accent when he speaks in English while making sure that there is sufficient energy on and off the rope. After all, it’s a balancing act that goes the same for the tension in his attitude towards his accomplices.
Ben Kingsley’s Papa Rudy gets into the mentor figure as he hands over to Petit his knowledge on high-wire. The protégé in Petit is firm in giving respect to the old man, showing a fatherly love with Papa Rudy returning the same level of affection.
It is rather fortunate for Petit to gain support from a number of people back in France and on-site in New York. His girlfriend, Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon), however stereotyped the role is, delivers the inspiration he needs to move forward albeit with a brisk pace. Along their way, they meet their crew in a photographer, an insurance salesman and a math teacher who is afraid of heights. It is even an unlikely group with the inclusion of two goofy New Yorkers. Later on, they prove that ambitions are not taken out of pure beliefs on one’s self but also with sheer team spirit. With minimally observed secondary characters and a seemingly cut-off love story, all of the focus goes to our hero and his relationship with the wire and the buildings that breathe their very own.
The showman in Petit has the enthusiasm of a performer and the dedication of a dreamer. The fruition of the plan to take that unimaginable walk between two building 110 storeys high is alongside the development of an anarchical character. As the precept goes, every long journey begins with one small step, and for each step he makes his dreams grow within him. In his youth, he startedbetween two high trees, then headed off for some aerial stunts at the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral, before plotting the largest endeavor that will later on be a historical achievement.
The unhurried buildup of The Walk pumps up to an exhilirating level through the atmosphere of a light caper movie. Suspense is consistent that getting off of one’s seat would be a terrible idea for such gem that effectively utilizes IMAX 3D technology as Petit fully realizes his dream. “The ledge is my dressing room,” he cries when he is about to commence his act. It is where the intruder becomes the performer. “I have one foot on the building, one foot on the wire, and the outside world starts to disappear.”
True enough, it is more than stressful to watch Petit get into that journey with the warm embrace of sunrise greeting his body, his spirit. His performance is more than acrobatics; his balance, motor coordination and agility fuse with the marvels of a dream so huge they have controlled him. As he dances up above the clouds, he becomes one with his dream of a lifetime, one with air, one with the heavens, one with the wires and the cavallettis and the tension that holds them altogether so cooperatively. The dance persist with a steady note that leaves its audience transfixed to the tribute it has offered: to humanity and to the fulfillment of dreams.
The big-screen extravaganza of The Walk deserves viewing (and repeat viewing for that matter) in an IMAX theater because of its humble submission to the spectacle. Even if its audience already knows what will happen and what to expect in the film, it is rewarding to be part of the adventure, the failures and the triumphs. The fright of closed eyes pale by comparison with the view of the heart-pounding climax. Even after the credits have been rolled or after the act has been completed, the remarkable cinematic experience will live on, not only because it is beautiful but also because it is affecting.
The Walk is gloriously upbeat to such great height–so exhilarating it does not let go up to that last blissful step of breathlessness.