If you have a fear of heights, The Walk will cure you. Or, potentially, make you vomit into your popcorn. I’m not really sure how the whole ‘facing your fears’ thing works. Either way, when tightrope walking daredevil Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes a step off the World Trade Centre roof onto a wire, in 3D, at the Hoyts Xtreme Screen… Wow! What a rush… You’re looking down and your heart is just racing.
The Walk tells the story of a man who dreamed of tightrope-walking across the Twin Towers. Obviously it is a true story; otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a remarkable tale. Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forest Gump, Flight), does a fantastic job of building his audience up to that the moment of truth – the titular walk. And trust me, it is about as tense as cinema comes. In a time where movies are just stunt, after stunt, after stunt, it seems to be a specialty of Zemeckis to take just one rather mundane stunt and make you feel the full weight of it, make you feel you are really there for it, make you feel the full gravity of it. He did it with the crash-landing scene in Flight, and he has definitely done it again in The Walk. It’s an impressive skill, considering how desensitised we are to explosions and stunt work these days.
The characters had little depth, though, and seemed to follow their leader Philippe Petit for no real discernable reason. One character named Jeff knew no English and had a crippling fear of heights, and he seemed to get over both these obstacles using the power of Joseph Gordon-Levitts gravitas. Really, Jeff stopped being terrified of heights because Petit said something like: “Don’t be scared,” and that seemed to do the trick, and when Petit was in grave danger, Jeff was able to scream a perfect-English warning to him, which made even less sense when you consider that they were both French.
I never had the feeling that any of his crew knew each other, and I actually didn’t feel much like I knew them either. In fact, I didn’t much get into Petit’s head, and he narrates the whole film! This was not the fault of the actors, however. I would place the blame with the writing.
The Walk also suffered from being a little too self-aware in the writing room. I felt I was in the writing room for about half the movie, in fact. Every time a character made an excuse in-dialogue as to why they would be speaking English [for the rest of the scene] rather than their native French, I could just see the writing room conversation taking place.
“Remember, no more than 5% of the dialogue in subtitles…”
“But why would they be speaking English if everyone in the scene is French?”
“We’d better have on of the characters make an excuse as to why…”
I’m actually fine with that (the excuse was that they needed to practice English because they were planning a coup in America), and I’m even fine with having a character saying it once so the audience knows, but not five or six times in a film…
I was also taken into the writers’ room and out of the film by the repeated ‘subtle’ hints that the film was a tribute to the Twin Towers. It was nice at first, having Petit, a passionate artist, marvelling over these buildings that he was so in love with, but by the end it just became overly sentimental and tacky. It felt like the writers had made the decision to keep the fact that the film was a tribute to the Twin Towers subtle, but then became worried that we might miss those subtle hints, so they jammed packed the whole film with them. During the final shot – the two towers fading into the sunset – I actually moaned, ‘Urgh, I get it, they’re gone because of terrorism. Sheesh, give it a rest.’
Well, maybe I didn’t actually moan it, but I thought it really loudly. I probably rolled my eyes, knowing me.
This film is hard to recommend, really… It’s the kind of film I’d usually say to wait and watch it at home, but at the same time, the ‘big scene’ (you know, when he walks on the tightrope), was really the highlight of the film because it was so big, and in 3D, and scary as heck.
Probably see it though. I’m gonna give it 5/10.