THE WALK || 2015, USA || Biopic || Directed by – Robert Zemeckis / Written by – Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Browne (based on the book To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit) / Produced by – Tom Rothman, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke / Music by – Alan Silvestri / Cinematography – Dariusz Wolski / Starring – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale / Running Time: 123 mins.
Cinema fans will be familiar with the story of Philippe Petit’s legendary 1973 high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers from the celebrated 2004 documentary feature Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh. But even for those familiar with the story and its outcome, The Walk‘s dramatization of the event should prove quite entertaining and rewarding.
Obviously, as implied by the title, the film’s vertiginous centre piece is indeed as breathless as one would expect, especially given the fact that The Walk is directed by Robert Zemeckis, an avid explorer and user of the latest cinematic technological advancements.
Ultimately, the film’s risk of becoming a one trick pony is denied by the build up to the walk itself. The screenplay offers us an empathetic insight into Petit’s obsession with his greatest ambition, humanizing it to an extent that even the credibility of Jason Gordon-Levitt’s dodgy but inevitable French accent does not falter. Even more intriguing is the exploration of the high-wire walker’s more human relationship with his peers, his love and his father-figure, his old circus mentor played by the always wonderful Ben Kingsley, who opposed his child like excitement.
In its dramatic format, The Walk welcomes influences from Chaplin and other slapstick comedians in the figure of Petit himself, with all his eccentricities. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Zemeckis’ film is as warm and human as it is beautiful to look at, and its balanced crescendo is what makes its final sequence all the more glorious. – 4/5