The Walk

October 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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It’s hard for me to explain why I would give so high a rating for what is essentially 20 minutes of screen time. Both the before, and very brief after of the actual walk itself is all fine stuff but nothing particularly special. This is a solid cast of actors, all of whom do a good job playing their various characters in what is a fairly interesting and funny caper movie. This is the story of a group of mostly French citizens who plan a tight rope walk across the 400+ foot span between the Twin Towers in 1974, driven entirely by the manic vision of charismatic street performer Philippe Petit, played with earnest enthusiasm by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That they succeeded is history but what it took to pull it off does make for a fun and almost unbelievable story. However, the nuts and bolts of that story can be seen in the amazing documentary, “Man on Wire.” In fact, if this film were just that story, I would say skip it and see the documentary, which is narrated (and acted out) by Petit, himself. In that film, you can really see his charm and why so many people would follow him. This film’s greatest weakness lies in the more naturally reserved/pensive Gordon-Levitt’s inability to capture Petit’s full energy and joie de vivre. However, all of that early set up is interesting and entertaining enough for you to hang in there for the big moment and what a moment. From the second Petit stepped out on that wire and for all the time he was there, I was mesmerized. Now, two caveats: first, I have some serious discomfort with heights and, second, I saw the film in IMAX 3D. This is the first film I have seen in that format since “Avatar” but I wanted to really appreciate the climatic scene and I am so very glad I did. Less than half way through Petit’s journey across the wire, I noticed that my palms were sweaty and my heart was racing. I don’t recall the last time I was so fully immersed in a theatrical experience. I did not relax the whole time he was on the wire and that raw energy (and perhaps the mood I was in already) led me to a state of intense emotions; I was deeply struck with a sense of awe and beauty and grace. This movie is as much a love story and a tribute to the Twin Towers as it is to Petit and it is impossible to watch without the shadow of 9/11 hanging over it. Director Robert Zemeckis (the “Back to the Future” movies, “Contact,” “Cast Away” and a zillion other things) was wise enough to leave that unmentioned, with the exception of a very gentle nod in the final scene. As a result, he ends up making a moving tribute to those buildings, to New York and America and the ideals of a more innocent time. I will admit I had tears in my eyes (as I do now, writing this) and was filled with gratitude and melancholy and feelings I cannot explain. Those moments on that wire were some of the most moving I have seen on film and they may yet be the best use of CGI I have seen (that is not to say it is the most sophisticated CGI or most believable but that it was used to do what cinema does best– create magic). I could pick apart flaws in the film and I noticed a few along the way. But I refuse to be that person. I can be that person too often in a film and this one defied me. It made me a kid again and it gave me back a moment of wonder. I am truly grateful for that.

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