Published Oct 01, 2015It's been estimated that three to five percent of the world's population has a fear of heights. That's a lot of people, and considering the sorry state of the modern film industry, it may seem like a strange decision for Sony Pictures to spend $35,000,000 creating the thrillingly epic and spell-binding visuals in The Walk, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt-starring feature about acclaimed high-wire artist Philippe Petit's death-defying walk between the World Trade Centre's Twin Towers in 1974. But creating a false sense of security at such great heights may be Robert Zemeckis' greatest accomplishment as a director in what is an otherwise over-the-top, run-of-the-mill drama.
If you've seen the film's trailer, you've likely already witnessed part of the movie's most climactic scene: Gordon-Levitt (as Petit) straddling the limitless expanse between the two towers, laying back until he's fully horizontal and soaking in his moment and the surroundings. It's a painstakingly beautiful and calm clip (one made all the more serene knowing the chaos that would cause the towers' collapse only 27 years after the stunt was performed). It feels as if the whole film (and Petit's life itself) has been leading up to this one spectacular second, and Zemeckis makes it one of the most magical cinematic moments seen on the big screen this year. For that, you can perhaps excuse its rather formulaic lead up.
The Walk is rated PG and meant to be seen in 3D (preferably IMAX 3D); truly, it's fun for the whole family, and because of this, the film's first act — a fairly innocuous origin story involving Petit as a lowly street performer plying his amateur acrobatic skills on the streets of Paris — looks and feels more like an extension of Hugo (what with its clear foreground and background separation and colour selection) than the big, bold triumph of the will it's been painted as in the films' first few trailers.
From there we find ourselves with a lacklustre team (Ben Schwartz and James Badge Dale being the most famous actors among them) that seems like they've been cobbled together for a heist, but little background or motive is given for their involvement. Even as they're helping Petit carry out his task of stringing him between the two towers, they ultimately play second fiddle to the man on the wire. Not to mention that the feat itself — what with its beautiful symbolism — outweighs them all.
Because of this, while walking away from the film it may be hard to remember much of anything of importance outside of the actual walk. But for a brief amount of time, it'll feel as if you're a part of the historic ride right along with him, which is worth the price of admission alone.