Never have I had such sweaty hands and feet watching a movie. Nor have I been so nervous for someone’s well-being as I did for Philippe Petit in The Walk.
It was a great opportunity to see a dramatized version of the audacious walk on the wire between the famous Twin Towers in 1974. While James Marsh’s 2008 documentary Man on Wire amazes audiences with the build-up, the actual walk itself frozen pieces of history, with Philippe explaining it.
Joesph Gordon Levitt is perfect in the lead role. The whole build up to the walk itself feels very much like a heist film, with intermittent narration by Philippe as he stands atop the Statue of Liberty, with the world trade centre in the background.
Rewind back a few years and our hero is an illegal street performer in Paris, enthralling audiences while irritating the police. But sheer coincidence one day, he saw a story about the twin towers being built; upon completion they would be the tallest buildings in the world. With a passion and enthusiasm, he begins practicing. In a street performance one day, he attracts the attention of everyone within 100 feet, much to the dismay of Annie. Although initially unimpressed by his antics, she soon warms to him and quickly buys into his dream.
Which is perhaps what is go amazing about Philippe’s personality. Being so enthused and passionate about such a crazy idea, people admire and want a small part in his dream. He makes wire walking look easy; although it is not without its share of falls, the most embarrassing one is into a lake. And his mentor, the circus legend Papa Rudy reminds him: take every step seriously. Just three arrogant steps and you could be dead.
As he arrives in New York, his team has expanded to include Annie, a photographer for the event and Jean Francois, a maths teacher who has an incredible fear of heights. Philippe even gets an inside man and shop owner (fluent in French) on board.
Any film which says “based on” or “inspired by” a true story will always make some changes and the unfortunate part is that it creates a lot of drag. For much of the middle sequence we are left wandering if the walk will ever start.
Zemeckis chooses his moments of poignancy carefully. Even those of us who aren’t overly emotional can appreciate the impact an event like this would have on everyone involved. And what’s great is that the entire family could go enjoy this film.
Although a touch idealistic, The Walk certainly delivers.