The Walk – Film Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt walks a tightrope between New York’s Twin Towers, but this vertigo-inducing movie doesn’t always hit the heights

What percentage of a film has to be great for it to be worth watching? The Walk, Robert Zemeckis’ dramatised account of Philippe Petit’s lunatic mission to tightrope walk between New York’s Twin Towers, is perhaps 25 per cent terrific, tops. Yet those 30-odd minutes are so good, they just nullify all the other meandering, irritating minutes around them.

If you’ve already seen Man On Wire, 2008’s Oscar-winning documentary about Petit, then there’s little here to demand another two hours of your time. Petit was an exceedingly self-confident street performer, who in 1974 read about the construction of two 415-metre towers in Manhattan. He decided he had to walk between them, even if it might land him in jail, because this is the sort
of thing Petit thinks.

It’s extremely hard to warm to Petit, perhaps even scientifically impossible. Played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with boundless enthusiasm and My First French Accent, Petit is so arrogant, so bullying, so utterly convinced that his desires must be indulged, that you’re less likely to root for him to succeed than to slip and crack something. A lead character doesn’t need to be likeable to be interesting, but he does need to be empathetic. Petit is neither, yet Zemeckis paints him as the hero. Everything is told from Petit’s point of view, to the extent that Zemeckis unfurls most of the story in voiceover or with Petit talking directly to the viewer. It’s too much.

The sequence that makes the rest endurable is the walk itself. Years working on motion-capture films (Beowulf, A Christmas Carol) as well as his instinctive action eye in films like Back To The Future or Flight, have given Zemeckis a faultless instinct for staging spectacle. The very-high-wire sequence is genuinely gasp-inducing. See it in 3D on the largest screen available.

But if you arrive late and miss the first hour of the film, don’t worry about it.

Advertisement
Advertisement