Movie Review – The Walk (2015)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, César Domboy, Steve Valentine, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel.

It’s 1974. The Twin Towers are in the process of being built and one man is filled with a dream. Phillipe Petit (Gordon-Levitt) has a need to hang his wire in the perfect place, and he’s chosen the giant monoliths. Assembling a team to help him get up to the roof before anyone can stop him, The Walk shows the journey of how one man made his dream a reality and redefined the impossible.

I wasn’t sure if the subject matter could sustain a runtime of 2 hours, but the film is perfectly paced and it doesn’t feel like it drags at all. Much of this is due to Gordon-Levitt, who brings his usual likeability to the role. The film revolves around his performance, and he is our guide into this event, quite literally as for much of the film he is standing on the Statue of Liberty with New York as a backdrop, narrating the tale. Occasionally this technique misfired as narrator-Phillipe repeated things we had heard only seconds before, but having him talk directly to the audience did feel inclusive, as if the audience is being welcomed into someone’s home and being told a comforting story after a weary journey.

That’s what the film felt like to me. It’s a damn fine film with an uplifting spirit, that feels cleansing when so much of the world is drowning in misery. For most of the world the main images associated with the Twin Towers are those that occurred on 9/11, and America is still suffering from that tragic event. Yet this film seeks to reclaim the glory of those buildings. Phillipe speaks at the end and it’s poetry, suggesting that some things like dreams are eternal, and should be celebrated. Instead of thinking about planes crashing into the skyscrapers we should think about how one man, because of a deep-seated need, strung a wire up between the buildings and attempted to walk across them.

The film is structured like a heist movie and the only throughline is the effort to make the walk. This does mean that the film does end abruptly, and some of the character drama does come out of left field. But the camera work during the climax is astounding and I even felt a bit woozy at times, and more than once I had to exclaim loudly at the audacity and the daring of this man. And yet for a stunt that’s so fraught with danger, seeing him on the wire is strangely beautiful and peaceful.

As you can tell I enjoyed this one a lot. I think it touches on the part of the human spirit that wants to believe in the impossible, that wants to be inspired. It’s all too easy to lose oneself in cynicism, and The Walk, and Phillipe Petit himself, should be commended.

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