Saturday 7 July 2018

The Walk

The true story of Philippe Petit who went to great lengths in the 1970’s to lash a wire between the top of the two World Trade Centre towers in New York, now, of course, no longer there, and proceed to ‘tightrope walk’ between them. This could have been potentially a very dull story based around one event which was over pretty quickly, but kudos goes to the filmmakers for telling the whole tale starting with Petit’s roots in France, the quirks of him and those around him as characters and the disciplined path he took to execute the illegal feat under the nose of the authorities.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun, Snowden, Inception) plays the lead and adopts an outrageous French accent for the English lines but seems convincing when speaking the French ones. At this point, it seems almost comic and produced in the style of, say, Amelie, or Hugo, with the main player extensively providing the narrative voice-over in that thick accent! But it seems to work and as the film gathers momentum, that comic edge falls away and we get to the meat of the story. He plays the part well and convincingly, though I can’t help thinking of him as Tommy the alien!

Ben Kingsley (Schindler’s List, Hugo, Gandhi) has some screen time as his real-life mentor back in France and as usual, plays his part with command and excellence. There’s a group of people also involved that Petit gathers along the way, including Annie, played by Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred Foot Journey, The Take, Realive) apparently along as the love-interest, but actually, that’s played down quite considerably, to the point where the viewer wonders if it was worth adding in at all. But if it was true, then it was, I guess. And to be fair, the rest of the story seems to follow what most reports say actually happened and who was involved.

Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future) provides the audience with near jaw-dropping realism in the heady scenes via his direction, so much so that it really does turn the legs a little to jelly! Clearly lots of visual trickery, but also - and I go back to Amelie - I was pleased to see a shooting style reminiscent of European art-house cinema.

It’s a super film which I was dubious about, but I’m glad I watched it, learned something of historical interest along the way and would recommend. Currently available at time of reviewing on NowTV in the UK but I’m sure also elsewhere.

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