The Walk

Genre: Drama

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, Benedict Samuel, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Mark Camacho

Running Length: 124 minutes

Synopsis: Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man – Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan.

Review: Movies worth watching in 3D come extremely few and far between, and I’ve always advocated sticking to 2D for the large majority of films that offer both options. However, The Walk is a movie that truly deserves to be seen on the big screen and in 3D (fortunately, it’s available in IMAX 3D locally, the largest possible format), and it’s my recommendation to go that route in order to maximize the viewing experience that The Walk will provide. In fact, if one does not watch The Walk in IMAX 3D, there’s very little compelling reason to watch the film in any other format.

The Walk takes its own sweet time to get started, with the first hour being largely unnecessary exposition filled with characters that populate the film but possess little to no depth (unfortunately that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Petit, though he still imbues the character with a boatload of charm). However, once we move on to the actual attempt to walk the wire across the two World Trade Center towers, things become a lot more interesting. The setup of the walk feels like a heist movie, and is quite an entertaining segment of the film. The logistical challenge of sneaking the equipment into the towers and the actual setup of the line is nothing to sniff at, and while truncated, Zemeckis does manage to wring a lot of entertainment value out of this third of the film.

And then there’s the last reel of the movie, which covers the walk itself. This is the big payoff for the film, and manages to counterbalance all the faults that the film contained prior to this glorious sequence. When viewed in IMAX 3D, the walk is nothing short of a spectacle – you could almost believe that the towers are real, and the dizzying sense of vertigo is enhanced with the huge screen and 3D. In fact, anyone with a fear of heights might find themselves feeling a bit of anxiety over how realistic some parts of the sequence are. The technical wizardry employed to bring this segment to life is truly impressive and I am pretty sure that The Walk is a shoo-in for at least a handful of technical award nominations next Oscar season.

This is not the first big-screen treatment of Petit’s historic walk across the twin towers, as it was also the subject matter of the eminently watchable documentary Man on Wire in 2008. Truth be told, the documentary tells the tale better, but in terms of visuals The Walk wins out by a large margin. This will not be a movie that would work well on the small screen, so make plans to head down to a cineplex near you if a visceral cinematic experience is what you’re after.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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