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article imageReview: ‘The Walk’ is no average stroll down memory lane Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 1, 2015 in Entertainment
‘The Walk’ is the striking retelling of Philippe Petit’s awe-inspiring high-wire walk in the ‘70s, which also pays tribute to the influence of the World Trade Center towers.
It’s not often a personal accomplishment doubles as a global inspiration. Human history is filled with memorable affairs, but this one left its mark on the world without changing it in any way. Moreover, in an amusing turn of events, the impossible act would be achieved by a Frenchman on American soil. In 1974, Philippe Petit successfully walked across a line he fastened between the roofs of the Twin Towers in New York. The Walk is the attractive retelling of his journey into history.
Philippe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) saw his first high-wire routine at a circus when he was eight years old and immediately became obsessed with mastering the art of tight-rope walking. Unfortunately his father was not impressed with his aptitude for carnival tricks and eventually kicked him out. So Philippe went to Paris, hoping the more cultured streets of the big city would embrace his notable but impractical talents. It’s there that he fell in love with fellow street performer, Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), and found his dream in a magazine article about the World Trade Center’s two towers, which were nearing completion. In the meantime, Philippe practiced other death-defying walks and honed his craft with the support of Annie, photographer/anarchist/friend Jean-Louis (Clément Sibony) and legendary high-wire walker Papa Rudy (Sir Ben Kingsley). Once in New York he performed extensive recon and expanded the team before finally walking between the world’s tallest buildings.
The structure of the film is interesting and appealing with Philippe narrating the story from atop the Statue of Liberty with the towers in the background. He’s recounting the tale not long after completing the unbelievable coup. And he’s incredibly charismatic and likeable, making his commentary throughout the picture delightful instead of intrusive. The story is designed rather formulaically, relating Philippe’s journey chronologically and during which he experiences triumphs and setbacks, love and betrayal, and all manner of things that could go wrong the day of the event. In spite of the traditional style, the movie is wholly enjoyable.
Writer/director Robert Zemeckis made the laudable decision to shoot the film in 3D, making the IMAX 3D viewing experience appropriately impressive. Given the story is about a man who achieves his most spectacular accomplishments above ground, depth is an important element to the narrative. While it provides the rest of the film with an attractive and absorbing quality, it’s never more important than when Philippe is atop the World Trade Center. More than once the audience is invited to do the ill-advised and look down with him, offering a spectacular view of the city below (which is so genuine it may cause some distress in people who have issues with heights).
In spite of the conventionality of the film, its attempt to recreate the experience combined with Philippe’s charisma raises it above its traditional design. Gordon-Levitt is exceptional even with the French accent and occasional French dialogue. His portrayal of Philippe is undeniably captivating, immediately drawing viewers into his tale; even though the audience knows the climax won’t occur until near the end of the two-hour picture, they are glad to follow Philippe on his journey. He’s also joined by a wonderfully amusing supporting cast, including César Domboy, Steve Valentine, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz and Benedict Samuel.
In addition to chronicling Philippe’s epic feat, the film doubles as a tribute to the Twin Towers that were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. Through the filmmakers’ lovely images of the newly erected structures, it’s an ode to their majesty and pays its respects to their impact on the city. Philippe simply helped people see the buildings’ beauty, transforming them from an eyesore in the city’s skyline to a beloved part of New York.
The Walk is open exclusively in IMAX 3D before its wide release on October 9.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon and Ben Kingsley
More about The Walk, joseph gordon levitt, ben kingsley, Philippe Petit, World trade center
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