I’d like to begin this review by quoting one of my favorite Christopher Nolan movies. I borrow this from the Oscar nominated feature The Prestige, starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson.
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.
I quote The Prestige because The Walk, Robert Zemeckis’ cinematic love-letter to wire-walker extraordinaire Phillipe Petit, is established and orchestrated exactly like a grand magic trick with a twist of the appeal of a vintage heist movie thrown in.
The Walk takes audiences on a step-by-step journey with Petit, played enthusiastically and with aplomb by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he searches for his dream, the ideal venue to hang his wire. Ironically it is after a magic trick gone awry that his journey to see his vision to life unfolds before him as he is compelled to take his wire from the streets of the City of Lights to the Big Apple. He lays his eyes upon a magazine rendering of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the plans form.
As his endeavor unfolds he gathers assistants, or as he prefers to call them accomplices, to make his dream a reality for his walk is not only dangerous, it is borderline illegal and he can’t do an undertaking of this scale alone. With the assistance of Papa Rudy, Annie, Jean-Louis, Jeff, Jean-Pierre, Barry, Albert and David, Phillipe Petit took the walk of a lifetime as he performed a high-wire act between the Twin Towers in 1974.
I had my reservations regarding The Walk going in, I didn’t want to see it in IMAX 3D, but my reservations were shattered and I admit seeing this film in IMAX 3D was worth it. The Walk is a marvelously entertaining and magical film to behold.
Bravo Robert Zemeckis! He and fellow screenwriter Christopher Browne breathed life, Petit’s favorite word, from the pages of Petit’s book “To Reach the Clouds” and into this movie, which was visually and in terms of narrative and technical, downright splendid.
Particularly, I found the use of breaking the fourth wall a delightful mechanism to peer into the mind of Petit as his coup was unfolding step-by-step and that insight allowed audiences to empathize and sympathize with his character.
Personally, I believe that the audience can tell that Joseph Gordon-Levitt LOVED playing Phillipe Petit. I believe that he picked up on Zemeckis’ zeal for making this film and channeled that energy to deliver and impeccable performance. In addition, the supporting cast including Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, César Domboy, Steve Valentine, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel all give fine performances, but suffice to say that none of the actors was not the star of the show.
The stars of The Walk were Dariusz Wolski, cinematographer, Jeremiah O’Driscoll, editor, the sound team, the visual effects team, this was one of this year’s most visually breathtaking achievements. The entire spectacle took my breath away; everything is so subtle that it works sublimely, particularly when Petit is on the wire performing before the bewildered onlookers below.
Having said that I will say that this film had one particular flaw and that is the implementation of music. The Walk is weighed down by Alan Silvestri’s score that it dulls the sensation of suspense, when it needed to be at it’s sharpest.
When Petit is on the wire, walking into the void between the towers, I found the music accompanying the moment to be completely over-the-top and I felt that for the sake of suspense, this is what the entire film was building towards, the music should have been left out completely.
Maybe you can get the same wonder from it’s documentary counterpart Man on Wire, but The Walk cannot be taken for granted. It is truly a must-see movie, and I felt as though I watched a grand magic trick when the lights in the auditorium went up.