Rating: 4/5 Stars (Four stars)
Star Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale
Director: Robert Zemeckis
What’s Good: Watching a film in IMAX 3D has to have a specialty and The Walk defines it. The cinematography is so fine that you actually get queasy every-time Philippe walks on the wire. Get set to be vertiginous if you suffer from height phobia!
What’s Bad: Even though the performances are brilliant, I have to admit, Joseph Gordon Levit’s French accent is quite funny. Also while the film focuses on his ‘coup’, we see little how his life changes post that. A right balance on the present and past could have made it just bang on perfect.
Loo Break: None! The interval is a curse.
Watch or Not?: Must-watch! The Walk is not just an inspiring story but also a visual treat. Rarely do you experience such tales and Robert Zemeckis traverses you right into Philippe’s story as it happens. You feel like an eye-witness for the historic feat.
Based on a true story, we first meet Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) , a young, goofy lad who makes his living off stunts on the street. He is an excellent juggler but an even better wire walker. As a child, Philippe has been obsessed with the circus and is a fan of Papa Rudy ( Ben Kingsley) and his sons who perform the highest wire walking feats. Determined to learn from the legend himself, Philippe approaches Papa Rudy for help. In the meanwhile he continues to perform on the streets and meets Anne (Charlotte Le Bon) , a singer and musician. The duo soon fall in love and Anne is very supportive of Philippe’s dream to become a famous wire walker. After their date, Philippe confesses his most ambitious mission of walking in between New York’s twin towers, the highest buildings in the world.
While his initial training with Papa Rudy comes to an end, his first wire walk post him learning the techniques is arranged by Papa Rudy over a lake party. Unfortunately, due to his lack of concentration and loss of balance, Philippe falls off the wire. Photographing this great fall is Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony) who soon befriends Petit and becomes his accomplice for the New York coup.
Ashamed by lake incident, an arrogant Philippe decides to illegally attach a wire between the two buildings of Notre Dame and decides to walk on it at dawn, once the tourists start to arrive. This feat of Petit is lauded by the audience but thanks to his act being illegal, the cops arrest him. Petit soon becomes famous and decides its time for his New York feat.
As Anne, Petit and Jean Louis move to New York, they must find more accomplices to chalk out a plan. Will Petit be able to make a name for himself in the world by walking on a wire in between the Twin Towers is what the story further entails.
The Walk Review: Script Analysis
The Walk is mainly based on the book ‘To Reach The Clouds’ by Philippe Petit and well, one could say, the film does full justice to it. Petit’s story is enthralling and it needed a broad canvas to be portrayed on celluloid. Zemeckis is known for his noteworthy films like Forest Gump and Cast Away and with this script, he adds another masterpiece to his name. The film moves around in parts from Petit’s Paris days to becoming a New Yorker.
Considering Petit’s French background, a lot of the conversations in the film take place in the same language,thus making the subtitles important. Conversations between Petit’s character and Papa Rudy are crafted skillfully and they instantly find connect with the audiences. Even though Rudy’s character in the film is short, it is a formidable one and the writers make sure it comes across perfectly.
The script is written as a narration of Petit himself who is recalling his story. His character’s goofy nature and arrogance form the comic elements in the first half where as the nervousness of taking up a deadly feat plays with his mind in the second half and hence you see him at the peak of anxiety. In one of the scenes where he is rehearsing his plan the 23rd time, one truly feels the pressure he is going through as one wrong move can cost him his life.
The writers make a good use of Petit’s book but mainly rely on the visual part to create it’s impact.
The Walk Review: Star Performance
Joseph Gordon Levitt makes his best attempt at mastering the French accent but doesn’t excel much. Other than his accent, Levitt emotes Petit’s character extremely well. The body language that Levitt embraces to convincingly play a wire walker is impressive and shows the kind of efforts he has put in it. Levitt could be in the run for Oscar nominations for his act.
Ben Kingsley is one actor who plays every character with full gusto. As Papa Rudy, he is brilliant and speaks Czech with such finesse that you instantly accept him as a Czechoslovakian. While his character is kept tight in the film, he manages to leave a mark with his performance.
Charlotte Le Bon plays Petit’s love interest Anne. Her beauty is unmissable and her entry scene itself leaves you spellbound. Her character lacks the edge and has a short screen-time too.
Clement Sibony plays Jean Louis, a friend who sticks by Petit’s side all through even as the former is going through his rough moments. Sibony fits the bill perfectly well.
Cesar Domboy as Jeff is simply brilliant in the film. His character has a phobia of heights and yet he hops onto Petit’s brigade of highest wire walk. In one of the scenes where Jeff has to stand on the ledge of the North tower, his shivering act is so real that you feel his palpitations.
The Walk Review: Music, Direction
I have to admit, I suffer from a horrible case of height phobia and even if I were to stand on the 20th floor of a building, I would get vertigo. Imagining someone walking over a wire from the 110th floor of a building to another building itself clenches my feet. Bringing this teeth-clenching feeling right to my seat in the theater is Robert Zemeckis’ class act.
3D films are expected to make you live the tale and The Walk actually gives you that. All credit to Zemeckis’ skilled cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. Right from serving us the taut charm of Paris streets from the 70s to the formation of brand new Twin towers in New York, it is all a visual treat.
Wolski makes you feel the ‘grey metal’ of the twin towers as Petitt feels them for the first time. He makes sure you feel the heavy breeze on the ledge of the twin towers.
While the first half is moving in a stable stride, the real elevation of the film happens in the second half. For almost thirty minutes you experience the fear, heavy-breathing, teeth-clenching and frozen feet as Petitt walks on the wire between the twin towers. The first time he finishes the walk, you breathe a sigh of relief, only to get hyper when you see him walking back to the opposite side. He bends on one leg, sleeps and even dodges a bird on the wire as he makes eight passes to and fro the North and South tower.
With bated breaths, you experience this marvel and I even find myself shutting my eyes in between to calm my horrors. The extraordinary background score by Alan Silvestri compliments to the plot.
Such is the brilliance of The Walk. The film could be a deserving nomination in the Oscars for its commendable work.
The Walk Review: The Last Word
The Walk is not just a film, it’s an experience. The gripping film will give you the chills as it takes you to the top of the twin towers for a never-seen-before journey. I am going with a 4/5 for the film.
The Walk Trailer
The Walk releases on 9th October, 2015.
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