On occasion, there are too many movies out that fit to print in The Citizens’ Voice and Standard-Speaker. For those times, Rebecca and Tamara will offer their takes on recently watched movies.
“The Walk” – Three and a half stars out of five, opening wide Friday.
First of all, “The Walk” is not a man’s dream to perform a tightrope trick between the Twin Towers. Instead, it’s a love letter to two giants that no longer exist and the world that is now empty without them.
That’s what director Robert Zemeckis gives to the tale of Frenchman Philippe Petit and his above-ground act. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the daredevil, performing his amateur acts throughout France and finding a place where he can perfectly place the ends of his rope. His bohemian lifestyle is made possible with the help of “co-conspirators” who gather tools and skills for his needs. Their collective acts and Petit’s sky-high ego take them to 1974 New York, where the World Trade Center is being completed. Under the cloak of magic and adventure, Petit and his crew are able to achieve the unthinkable – create a 110-story-high playground for the city to see.
While the movie trailers and posters focus on the one-of-the-kind event, “The Walk” concentrates on Petit’s umbrella of an ego and what makes his co-conspirators want to stay under it. Petit spends most of the movie narrating the events from the torch of the Statue of Liberty as though, like the monument, he is France’s gift to the United States. The rest of the cast is an assemble of artists and misfits – from his love interest and musician Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and photographer Jean-Louis (Clément Sibony) to acrophobic mathematician Jean-François (César Domboy) and New York ex-pat Jean-Pierre (James Badge Dale). There’s even a mysterious businessman with stylish facial hair, played by Steve Valentine, that a part of the group. In a scene where the gang is assembled near the towers to prepare for Petit’s act, they looked like a news team that was cut from “Anchorman.” All of these characters and the addition of middle school French and outside cafes create a world that even a lukewarm Francophile would say was too much.
But it’s the actually walk that pulls the film out of mediocrity. It’s in the realm of cinematic wizardry where Zemeckis does well. No matter what the subject or genre is, whether it’s “Forrest Gump” or the “Back to the Future” trilogy, Zemeckis creates an experience, and he accomplishes that here. As the audience knows that the towers and the high-wire act are made possible thanks to green screens and computer-generated imagery, there are elements of fear, anxiety and brashness. Gordon-Levitt gives a more human, graceful performance than what the egomaniac he portrays earlier in the film would have done. The three-dimensional treatment is what the event needed.
But as the walk unfolded, so did a sense of dread. It wasn’t necessarily for Petit’s act, but it was for the towers. The feat brought the city together (at least in Petit’s view), but knowing that they were no longer around added another level of emotion.