“People ask me "Why do you risk death?". For me, this is life.”
I could’ve probably decided to spend my Back to the Future Day yesterday watching Robert Zemeckis’s classic Blockbuster film, but instead I decided to catch up with his latest movie: The Walk. Zemeckis is one of those directors who is always ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and innovation in the film industry although his risks don’t always pay off. A Christmas Carol, Beowulf, and The Polar Express are examples of this, although I was pleased to finally seeing him take a more conservative approach with Flight. It did take me by surprise because it ended up being a completely different movie from what I was expecting, but it worked. The Walk combines some of his innovative techniques delivering some impressive images at the height of the twin towers, but it also is a conventional biopic. If you’ve seen the fabulous 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh then you basically know the narrative of this film because both screenplays are based on the same book “To Reach the Clouds,” written by Philippe Petit himself. Petit is played here by the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt and if you were unaware of who this man was in real life then you might think he is exaggerating the character because he is such a vibrant and effusive person. But thankfully after seeing Man on Wire I can honestly say that he nailed the role because that’s exactly how he sounded all the time as he passionately spoke about his dream of crossing the void between the two World Trade Center towers on a high wire. Zemeckis follows his story closely and delivers a film about a man who would stop at nothing to achieve his goal. Perhaps we may not identify with this man’s passion, but it is still inspiring nonetheless and it makes for an entertaining watch.
The trailer for The Walk is probably the only one that I’ve seen that focuses on the climax of the story. The selling point for this movie is the fantastic visuals of Philippe walking through the clouds on a thin wire, but I actually found the build up for it much more entertaining. Getting to experience Philippe’s conception of his dream and then following the recruiting process as these characters who enter his life also become passionate about his crazy dream is the highlight of the film for me. Even the actual operation to get to the top of the building is a much more fascinating watch then simply watching the spectacle in the air, so I must admit that the trailers don’t give away the most important aspect of this film which is celebrating this man’s passion. The Walk is an inspirational and uplifting film, while at the same time it’s also a love letter to New York and the World Trade Center. It seems that many people are still not ready to watch films centering on the towers, but this might be the best way to commemorate them and what they represented.
The Walk is a conventional biopic, but at the same time it manages to incorporate elements of a heist movie because everything had to be perfectly orchestrated in order for Philippe and his men to attach the wires through both towers. It has its moments of suspense and even comedy because the relationship between these characters is solid. They somehow all realize that it’s worth risking their freedom in order to help this friend achieve his goal. Philippe is a mad man, but he is so convincing at the same time that it’s hard to say no to. The supporting performances in this film from Ben Kingsley (who plays Philippe’s mentor, Papa Rudy), Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, and James Badge Dale are all fascinating, but it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who carries this film along with the breathtaking visuals from Zemeckis.