The Walk: Flawed But Fun Adaptation of Remarkable High-Wire Feat
Ben KingsleyCharlotte Le Bon...
In 1 Cinema
Like 2008 Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire, The Walk tells of French tightrope performer Philippe Petit's exhilarating high-wire performance between the Twin Towers; a feat that took place over forty years ago. Channeling the kind of approach that made Back to the Future and Forrest Gump so successful, Robert Zemeckis frames his story in a fictionalised comedy-caper format and, although the film isn’t without its flaws, the director has put together a fun and occasionally exhilarating watch.
The story begins six years before the actual event with Philippe Petit (Levitt) performing on the streets of Paris. With no real prospects in sight, he soon stumbles across a newspaper article about the planned construction of the Twin Towers in New York and is instantly ignited with the desire to walk between the towers on nothing but a tight rope.
Several years later, Philippe meets – and falls in love with – Annie (Le Bon); a street musician who is eventually drawn into helping him plan and prepare for the stunt alongside friend and anarchist photographer, Jean-Louis (Sibony). After helping him pull off a high-wire feat between the two towers of Notre Dame, they soon decide that he is ready for the big one and make their way to New York City to see it through.
Told through a slightly intrusive voiceover narration – a feature which the film really could have done without in some parts – The Walk is fast-paced, engaging and manages to capture the artist's drive and passion for performing death-defying stunts.
However, the script feels a little heavy-handed, tends to over-explain everything and it doesn't really begin to take full form until the third and final act where you will invariably be on the edge of your seat. That sense is partly owed to the visuals, with Zemeckis and co. bringing the iconic 1970s New York skyline to life in the grandest of ways and the dizzying first-person shots.
Performance wise, Levitt ticks all the boxes, though his faux French accent gets a little grating thanks to the voiceover overdrive. Meanwhile, the supporting cast – including Ben Kingsley who plays Philippe's trainer, Papa Rudy– are all relatively well-fitted into Philippe's story, though they are readily left by the wayside for the protagonist's goal.
Nevertheless, Zemeckis – who also penned the script – manages to do something that few films with such a niche plot achieve; making the audience care. Daring and visually impressive, it's a high-flying and, at times, thrilling ride.