The Walk - Doesn't Always Gel, But Genuinely Charming
The first time I saw promos for THE WALK, I had mixed feelings. The film looked good, and atmospheric; but at the same time it seemed redundant and Joseph Gordon-Levitt seemed miscast as a Frenchman. His French accent sounded less realistic and more like he was imitating Pepe le Pew. Having seen THE WALK I can confirm that Levitt’s accent really isn’t that great, and there are some pointless aspects to this movie, but there are other factors worth liking.
Phillipe Petit (Levitt) is a wire-walker. His dream is to hang a wire in between the World Trade Center. He begins to build a relationship via illegal wire-walking in France. Once he gains a bit of notoriety, he assembles a team to help him plot a way to get through the center and get the wire between the towers. It plays out like a heist movie which works in the film’s favor.
The acting is decent; Gordon-Levitt, despite the ridiculous accent, manages to be watchable and amusing throughout the film. It’s not going to go in the pantheon of his greater works, but it is a testament to his talents that even a flawed Joseph Gordon-Levitt performance still commands some presence. Ben Kingsley, a magical man whom studios seem to think can play any ethnicity, fairs a little better. He’s plausible as a Czech, and he’s entirely competent in the role.
There are some fun references to the period, from the hairstyles to the music to a few of the costumes. Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation) shows up with a pornstache. There’s a few fun nods like that. The script writes Petit very much as an auteur of his craft, but he’s never such a nuisance to watch that he sinks the movie. A big part of that is the strength of Gordon-Levitt’s performance.
The real star of THE WALK are the effects. The actual time he spends on the wire goes on too long, but there are some absolutely breath-taking shots during the sequence. The film clearly was shot in 3D, and those aerial shots, gimmicky though they may have been, worked on me like a charm.
I also like how THE WALK approaches The Twin Towers. There was a point, for the longest time where showing the towers on a film without referencing what happened to them was essentially taboo. We’re starting to move past that, and THE WALK is wise to portray them in their prime, with reverence and respect. The film examines what made people fall in love with the structure in the first place, and through its visuals, creates a vision to behold.
I have some complaints regarding the movie, namely some unnecessary aspects. One is the narration. I’m not always against narration in a movie, but here it felt superfluous and made no sense. There’s no reason for Petit to narrate the movie, and it’s baffling to see him on top of the Statue of Liberty.
THE WALK is not an essential film. There’s a certain sight to it, a certain thrill worth enjoying (thanks in large part to Robert Zemeckis’ capable direction). This thrill, however is not on par with the experience a viewer would have at say, THE MARTIAN. I recommend it, if only barely.