An elevated thriller.
2008’s Oscar-winning Best Documentary, Man on Wire, told us almost everything we needed to know about Frenchman Philippe Petit and his illegal high-wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Man on Wire is a superb documentary (available on Netflix at this writing), but it was missing one thing: footage of the walk.
Enter Robert Zemekis (Forrest Gump, Back To The Future) to put us on that wire 1,360 feet above the ground — in IMAX 3D. The Walk is a seamless CGI beauty onscreen and a nail biting thriller. Turns out, we did need two movies.
The film starts out a bit wobbly. It begins with a fast paced carnivalesque sequence of quick cuts, camera tricks and some odd comedy that threatened to distance me from having any emotional connection to Phillippe Petit (Gordon-Levitt) and his entourage. My guess is that Zemekis needed to provide theater excitement early, before audiences settled in for the slow build story.
Not helping the first third of the film, the script includes at least two contrived bits of dialogue that literally explain why Philippe is speaking English in each scene. This is followed by other unnecessary voice-over explanations.
The film settles in when the characters arrive in New York, and it soars once the balletic Phillipe hits the wire. It is here that Zemekis has created the type movie magic that I’m not sure I’ve seen since the Titanic cracked or the Jurassic Park dinosaurs were first revealed.
Simply put: A wobby start, but it quickly finds balance and soars.
Award potential: The Walk has a chance at one of the many Best Picture shots, but I think it will fade by nomination time. I don’t expect an acting nod either. Gordon-Levitt is getting unfair critique for his lively French, which was actually perfect to character (Phillippe Petit had a very strong accent). This film could easily win some well deserved Visual Effects and Cinematography prizes.
The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.