December 31, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: THE WALK

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsly, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (2015, 123 min).

I vaguely remember seeing this event on the news as a kid, when Philippe Petit tight-roped across the World Trade Center in 1974. It was still under construction at the time and his stunt apparently helped inspired many native New Yorkers to embrace the twin towers, who previously thought the boxy buildings were unimaginative eyesores. Some would argue this single act rendered the World Trade Center as synonymous with the Big Apple as Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building.

I never gave the event another thought until years later, watching a post-9/11 documentary on the World Trade Center’s history. Petit’s wire-walk was a highlight, of course, but knowing the buildings’ eventual fate decades later rendered it a bittersweet memory.

So it’s a credit to director Robert Zemeckis that The Walk remains a mostly whimsical account of Petit’s daring (and frankly insane) wire-walk between the two buildings. As played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Petit is a likeable sort (perhaps with his head just a bit too high in the clouds) and charming enough to recruit several like-minded people into helping him out. Most of the characters are fairly perfunctory (including Charlotte Le Bon as a love interest), meaning the first hour, which is mostly dedicated to introducing them, occasionally wears on the viewer’s patience.

Spitting off a ledge has its challenges at this height.

But once it focuses on the stunt itself (ingeniously presented like a crime caper), The Walk really comes to life, with a few moments of high-suspense even before Petit steps a foot on the high-wire. And because this is Robert Zemeckis, who never met a special effect sequence he couldn't pull-off, the final act is as constantly crotch-tingling (and completely convincing) as any film ever made. If you suffer from even a little acrophobia, prepare to pee yourself a bit. I suppose it goes without saying that some of its original theatrical impact will be lost on smaller screens.

For the most part, The Walk is quite an entertaining film, even if the resolution is a forgone conclusion. Still, despite the overall amusing tone maintained throughout, the final scene is poignant and bittersweet without calling much attention to itself. I won’t reveal it, of course, but you might find yourself getting a little misty once the end-credits roll.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Featurettes: “The Amazing Walk”; “First Steps: Learning to Walk the Wire”; “Pillars of Support”

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