The Walk (2015) – Review

“THE WALK”

The Walk is the latest film from the Director Robert Zemeckis whose previous credits include Castaway, Forrest Gump and the Back to The Future Trilogy, so with a resume like that, you know you are in for what is potentially a very good time. The Walk was actually one of the films that I was really looking forward to this year especially around the beginning of the summer when we first started seeing trailers for the film, even though they didn’t actually show much of what was to be expected. The trailer was so effective that when I went to see Ant Man with Dr Buchan who has a bit of a fear of heights, she actually couldn’t watch the trailer in 3D and had to look away, oh and she has made me promise that I am not allowed to play the film anywhere near her when it comes out on DVD! On the day of this review’s publication the film will already have been out for over two weeks and that means that a little late to the bat, however I was determined to review this film, especially with the fact that this has now gone much more wider with its IMAX 3D screenings, its first week having it reduced to a few select cinemas, which is rather baffling to me because upon this film’s release there didn’t appear to be that much competition around for the IMAX screens apart from Everest which already was nearly a month old and that’s about the time the IMAX screenings stop and they start with something else.

So, how does the final product hold up?

The film takes place in 1974 and tells the true story of Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who travels to New York with several accomplices in order to fulfil his dream, walking a tight-rope between the then incomplete Twin Towers which would be the highest high rise walk in recorded human history. He takes several accomplices from France and America in order to pull it off, however, with the fact that this act is, well, highly illegal, they had to plan carefully and fight tooth and nail to pull it off. The film is based on an entirely true story, in fact the screenplay written by Robert Zemeckis along with Christopher Browne (making his screenwriting feature debut having previously only directed shorts) is based on the book ’To Reach The Clouds’ by Philippe himself. The film does have a sense of authenticity especially considering half the film is narrated by Joseph Govdon-Levitt playing Philippe which did feel very similar to some of the famous lines from Forrest Gump. Robert Zemeckis’s films are known for having memorable characters like Marty McFly and Doc Brown in Back to the Future as well as Chuck Nolan from Castaway and I think Phillipe stands in that league. The film really gets down what a mad daredevil Philippe is, but despite the fact that you would never dare attempt half of this stuff in real life, unless you had a death wish, you completely understand his point and are almost driven to join him in it. For the record ‘Do Not Actually Try This In Reality’, because in reality you would probably die. Now we have the legal mumbo jumbo out of the way, now on to the review.

Philippe has a line where he says ‘why would you risk death’ and he says, ‘I don’t see it as death, I see it as living!’ That one line pretty much sums up the film completely. The only negative I would say in the narrative department is the fact that the film never truly achieves an authenticity of the time period it is based on, apart from some the equipment used, particularly the walkie talkie’s used in a couple of the scenes setting up the actual tight-rope walk. Thats the only real negative I can say for the film, it’s actually a rather fantastic narrative that really drags you along and pulls you with it. Robert Zemeckis has directed this as being basically a ‘heist movie’, although, instead of an actual theft going on at the end of the movie this builds to the major performance or the titular Walk which is built up big time. In fact with the various characters and accomplices being introduced in the way they are and the various roles they play, it almost feels a bit like Oceans 11 at times. Each one of them definitely brings something to the role, however a few of them feel a bit under utilised. The only one who gets a major amount to do is Jeff (played by Cesar Domboy) who has a fear of heights and has to overcome this throughout the film, which means you do have to ask fully, ‘why would you hire a guy with a fear of heights’ to do the highest tight-rope walk ever!! The rest of the cast are slightly under utilised but not completely forgotten and you get a sense of dedication that goes into each of the roles. I think if some people are expecting Ben Kingsley to have a large part in this film they are going to be sadly disappointed, whilst he is very good and supports a genuinely authentic accent, which is to be expected from Ben Kingsley, he is not in the film for large periods of time, playing Papa Rudy who’s Philipe’s mentor in the high wire walking. The film also escalates and builds to that event and it does this almost expertly. There are some nice, funny charming moments such as Philippe’s early performances and learning his trade, to making his anarchist friends in France and following the twin towers construction, building on his dream to hand his high wire. The build up to the walk has some nice interesting moments and if the film had only focussed on the walk itself it would have probably sunk the movie because by that point you would have been so bored it would have been brilliant just to finally get to the walk. This film, thankfully, avoids that track and points out that there were other aspects that made this an incredible true story. This is definitely a movie that you will feel charmed about while watching it and you also get a few funny moments in there, not that two other people who were in the cinema with me actually laughed at much!! The only thing I would have said against it, was that the film feels rather quick paced, but then again I think that potentially it’s to the film’s benefit, because it doesn’t overstay its welcome and could have easily padded out the running time unnecessarily which probably would have sunk the film and you would want to say ‘please get to the walk already’!!

The film comes in at 123 minutes and I think that’s a perfect amount of time, any longer and it would have risked sinking the movie. The walk itself is the hilight of the movie it is one of the most tense things I have seen in a cinema, period. You will seriously get vertigo watching this movie, mainly down to the film’s fantastic effects, which I will go into later. I know the film is based on history, so obviously they had to have the tight-rope walk act the way it did, but you will be almost screaming at the screen for him to just get to the other side and get back on safe ground as he takes the biggest risk of his life and the walk is a massive pay off, especially considering Robert films it from several camera angles which adds to the full effect and that coupled with the film’s excellent editing really sells it. It’s not the only moment in the film to try and give you vertigo, but I will go into that later. In short, I absolutely love the plot of this movie and I think that’s down to the fact that these were excellent, excellent characters based on some pretty extraordinary people and I really enjoyed being in their company, in a manner of speaking. Not to the same extent of Pride, but still.

The film bills itself as being a portrayal of an incredible true story and it doesn’t disappoint in that manner and while I think the pacing may get a few people and I’m not sure its going to be for everyone, I think this plot line will go down well with most people, especially the people who enjoy heist movies like Ocean’s 11 and even the previously reviewed Ant Man which this has a very similar feel to this.

If I am to discuss the actors I really would like to talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Last year in my first review which was Sin City 2, (please don’t read that as I hadn’t found my style yet and I was still working out the kinks) I said that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had become one of my favourite actors and I was rather disappointed to find out that this was to be his only performance this year, having not known that ‘The Night Before’ was coming out in December, which I probably won’t watch. I would have to say that if he took time out to concentrate on this film, then I am really glad that he did because he really knocks another one right out of the park. He seems to be excellent in almost every role that he has. I loved his roles in Lincoln, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and especially in The Wind Rises and Dom John, he really takes his roles to another level and I really think the man deserves an Oscar at some point to validate what a talent he is. I’m really looking forward to him playing Edward Snowden next year. I hope Philippe enjoyed this portrayal because in my opinion he does an excellent job especially considering he’ also serving as our narrator, telling his story from the top of the Statue of Liberty, as you do! His French accent does sound slightly stereo typical, but he does the french dialogue expertly and if you couldn’t tell who he was you would have sworn it was a French actor playing the role. This really is a French film in a sense because most of the cast are French and playing French roles. There’s the previously mentioned Cesar Domboy who also brings out an excellent performance, as well as Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon who does an excellent role as Philippe’s girlfriend Annie, even though I do feel she is slightly under utilised. That’s the real down side to the cast, they do feel slightly just there, they are all fantastic in their roles, but this is really the Joseph Gordon-Levitt show, Steve Valentine playing the cameo as the inside man of Barry Greenhouse notwithstanding. I’ve already mentioned what my thoughts of Ben Kingsley were so I won’t go over that again but needless to say, the cast really pull their weight and it’s definitely an interesting ensemble piece. That’s what I would be saying if Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn’t getting most of the screen time, but he is really worth it as the main character and he gives an excellent performance.

The effects are what really sell this Movie. I am going to get this right out there immediately, I did see this film in IMAX 3D. The 3D was really heavily advertised and we were being told this was the 3D experience of the year and I can guarantee right now “This is the 3D experience of the Year”. This is one of the few films that I have seen where the 3D actually enhances the film, and if you can see this film in that format, I would urge you, go and see it in 3D. The film, right from the start knows that it is a 3D Movie and it is shot in the correct fashion, and while the film does resort to a few gimmicky things flying at the camera shots it’s more used to give off subtle effects, such as objects being in the foreground and background adding an extra dimension to several of Philippes acts as a street performer in Paris and most importantly it adds an extra dimension of height which really adds to the effects. This is a film which will really give you vertigo because the effects really make you feel the height. I haven’t been this scared of heights in a film since Patema Inverted. All the 3D would have been for nothing if the film wasn’t expertly shot, which it is. The film is superbly shot and edited making the 3D work very well, in fact the first portion of the film feels like a slight homage to early cinema and especially early French cinema. Rather similar to Martin Scorcese’s Hugo in a sense. As for the walk itself, it is one of the tensest moments in the cinema, you really feel like this man is on top of New York and they do an excellent service to the Towers themselves. The film, rather tastefully doesn’t actually mention 9/11 apart from one subtle reference at the end of the movie, which I think is actually a good idea, because what the film does brilliantly is that is shows that the towers meant something and they shouldn’t just be associated with the one event and it wasn’t just associated with 9/11 and I think it’s good to remind people that there was more to them than that and maybe that we should look at them and say, yes it was a tragedy but there was a man who tempted fate just to put on a show for people. As for the walk itself, I have never had a better sense of height than in this film, you really will just be saying “Please, please get to the end of it, I can’t stand it any more, this is mental” and when he does this walk, you feel like you are on top of New York with him. I don’t want to give away too much more about it because I think it’s best experienced, but believe me when I say that this has some of the best cinematography in anything that I have seen this year.

The Walk definitely comes highly recommended by me, I absolutely loved this film and I think it’s definitely up there with some of Robert Zemeckis’s best work. It had an excellent performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, some absolutely brilliant effects and is one of the few films that is actually improved by 3D. This film is not all style over substance and anyone worried about that should lose their worries immediately, they are purely there to effectively tell an incredible true story. You could read the biography this film is based on before going to see this or the good documentary Man On The Wire, but like most true stories, I would actually recommend that you go into it almost blind and then find out the facts after the film. This is one I am definitely not going to forget for a while and neither will you if you go and see it.

What are your thoughts on The Walk? Did they match mine? Please leave your comments and if you want, please answer this week question, which is:

“Which one of these Robert Zemeckis’s films is your favourite? Back to the Future, Forrest Gump or Castaway?”

I think I can predict the answer to this one, but I will be interest to see what people pick.

Now we are back in full swing, let’s move on. On 23 October I will be reviewing the film which so obviously was meant to be a summer blockbuster, but then got pushed back to half term to avoid competition, next week it’s Peter Pan Origin Story “Pan”

Thanks for reading this review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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