At the start of his fledgling tightrope career Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) tells Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) most tightrope walkers “die when they arrive” as he falters 3 steps before reaching safety due to his arrogance. The Walk reminds the viewer that, despite it sounding sickly sweet, every journey starts with a single step. After watching this film you’ll remember nothing is impossible.
Philippe Petit in 1974 without a safety line walked a tightrope of 140ft between the Twin Towers in New York. They stood at 110 stories high. The 2005 Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire was incredible. The Walk fails to engage the audience. Everything about the story telling is linear as opposed to the Man on Wire documentary. It is obviously done with the blessing of Philippe Petit and based on his memoir Between the Clouds. However, what gives the film a competitive edge is the CGI and seeing it in IMAX 3D laser; you must there is no point seeing it in 2D. IMAX with laser represents a quantum leap forward in cinema technology – providing audiences with the sharpest, brightest, clearest and most vivid digital images ever, combined with a whole new level of immersive audio.The audience are able to sense, sort of, and see the same vertiginous view as Petit from the safety of the cinema chair. It is a totally immersive experience. Joseph Gordon Levitt does an admirable job as Philippe Petit although his French accent does verge perilously close into comic ‘allo ‘allo territory. It’s a shame we have to sit through nearly an hour of the film before becomes engaging. Robert Zemeckis is never more comfortable than when directing the CGI and action scenes. There are times when Levitt appears so CGI that it feels as if we’re watching a scene from Polar Express. Nonetheless, the technical brilliance in recreating the Twin Towers and special effects is awe inspiring.
This film is even more empowering and uplifting given that Petit did actually walk the tightrope between the Twin Towers and spent 45 minutes up there. Yes 45 minutes! As I said impossible is nothing. The ending of the film is poignant given the awful tragedy that befell the towers on 11 September 2001. In a small way this film takes us back to an age of innocence and wonder. Since the movie, I remember the Twin Towers fondly because of Petit and that is a legacy he should be proud of.
The film must be watched at an IMAX screening for the full immersive effect. You may not rush out after the screening to learn to walk a tightrope but, it will leave you thinking everything is possible and it starts with a single step.
The Walk opened nationwide on 2 October.
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