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Walk, The (3D)


Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, Benedict Samuel, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Mark Camacho

Director: Robert Zemeckis

You might have believed James Marsh’s riveting 2008 documentary about the man who walked a tightrope between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre would be the last word possible about this amazing (and now, after 9/11) unique feat.

Fortunately, director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis believed he had something to add with his dramatization of French wire walker Philippe Petit’s extraordinary accomplishment.

Zemeckis was right. Aided and abetted by Dariusz Wolski’s superb 3D cinematography, all the more impressive on the giant IMAX screen, Zemeckis transforms the final 40 minutes of The Walk into a truly terrifying suspense sequence following Petit’s vertiginous, gravity-defying wire walk that made world history – and rightly so.

Watching Petit perilously balanced on a wire suspended high above the streets of New York, defying both gravity and common sense, is inevitably doubly suspenseful. Knowing the real-life conclusion of Pettit’s crazy crossing you would think you could relax.

Wrong! The combination of superb camerawork, all-too-convincing visual depth and masterly filmmaking stretched my nerves almost to snapping point.

Screenwriters Zemeckis and Christopher Browne’s dramatization of Philippe Petit’s book To Reach the Clouds takes its time getting to the dizzying climax that is the point of the film.

We see the young Petit growing up in France, learning to walk the tightrope grudgingly guided by a legendary circus star wire walker (Ben Kingsley regrettably hamming it up with a ludicrous pantomime-level foreign accent) before become a Parisian street entertainer on a unicycle, interestingly played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a unique – if not exactly Gallic – accent.

He finds love with fellow street entertainer Charlotte Le Bon who, strangely, lacks the perfectly reconstructed teeth beloved of Hollywood and instead possesses teeth that are crooked, just like humans and not like screen stars and rounds up a bunch of accomplices to accompany him to New York where he intends to carry out his ‘coup’ and saunter between the Twin Towers…

Zemeckis makes some strange choices, including having Gordon-Levitt stand on the rim of the torch of the Statue of Liberty with Manhattan and the World Trade Centre in the background to narrate his story.

No matter. Those last terrifyingly vertiginous 40 minutes alone make The Walk unmissable and confirm Zemeckis as a magnificently visceral/emotional filmmaker.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Sep 2015