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The Walk (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - DVD Review

The Walk

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THERE are two wow factors at play in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk: the first relating to the audacity of the act itself; the second all about the technical bravura employed to bring this seemingly impossible feat to life.

Based on the true story of Philippe Petit, the French wire walker who, in 1974, stopped New York in its tracks by walking between the newly constructed Twin Towers, this is a stunning recreation of and tribute to that iconic moment.

If the rest of the film struggles to measure up, then all will be mostly forgiven once you reach it’s dazzling climax. For in a 40-minute sequence, Zemeckis truly puts viewers on the wire with Petit, providing them with the thrill of the act as well as danger surrounding it.

His camera work is breath-taking, as are the visuals (or effects) accompanying it. The sequence is stunning and worthy of the price of admission alone, especially in 3D IMAX. At a time when special effects can so easily be taken for granted, it returns that magic to them.

And in doing so, it also perfectly captures the mad genius of Petit himself while simultaneously paying a bittersweet tribute to the now lost beauty of the World Trade Centre itself, the terrible fate of which lingers without ever being spoken of.

Alas, if the finale of the film excels, the first two thirds are a little more easy to pick apart.

Anyone expecting to really get inside the head of Petit may be disappointed as the film refuses to speculate even though Petit himself has never addressed the why. While the decision to opt for a lot of humour undoubtedly negates a lot of the tension involved in realising the ambition in the first place.

In both regards, James Marsh’s superb documentary Man on Wire offers a far better insight into both Petit and the ingenuity required to put him on the wire in the first place.

That said, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a credible job of capturing Petit’s spirit (which I saw first-hand when I interviewed him for Man on Wire) and there’s also a charming performance from Charlotte Le Bon as his lover and primary accomplice, Annie.

If the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and James Badge Dale, as two more accomplices, feel a lot more contrived and played for laughs, then this also negates the film’s dramatic impact. But then Zemeckis also seems a little too pre-occupied early on with dazzling with all the technological tools at his disposal, sometimes employing filmmaking touches for the sake of it at the expense of the characters.

You might even suspect that Gordon-Levitt’s voice-over and narration is to compensate for this, filling in the blanks left by Zemeckis’ handling of the performances. Unfortunately, it can get slightly annoying and sometimes even pulls you out of certain moments.

But even if such criticisms sound hefty and numerous, nothing should detract from the brilliance of the film’s final act. It truly deserves to be experienced on the biggest screen possible and it won’t fail to impress.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: February 1, 2016