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Nerdlocker Movie Review: The Walk

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To be honest, I was completely skeptical after I saw the trailer for The Walk, the new film about Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist who dreamed of performing on a wire strung between the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center. “What’s the point?” I thought. James Marsh’s fantastic 2008 documentary Man on Wire already told this story in epic fashion, and features the charming, larger-than-life Petit recounting the unbelievable events in an entertaining, exhilarating fashion. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend checking it out before seeing The Walk.

When I learned that Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Flight) would direct, it was a little easier for me to stomach the idea of turning this personal story (and fascinating doc) into a big, commercial movie (in 3D no less). I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but he seemed like an odd choice to play the charismatic Frenchman. I mean, he’s talented but can he pull it off? For the most part, he does. Though he looks kind of funny with blue contacts (they look like blue contacts, not blue eyes), JGL nails the accent and the general spirit of Petit. He learned to speak French fluently for the role and practiced wire-walking with Petit, himself.

Philippe Petit, 1974

The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Ben Kingsley can make the most out of any role and fares the best out of the supporting characters. Poor Charlotte Le Bon and several of the ‘accomplices’ are marginalized, flimsy characters, merely along for the ride. They don’t have much to work with. This is Petit’s world and the movie would not be as palatable had JGL not embodied him so well.

The film has a dreamy quality that works well with the nature of the story and protagonist. Zemeckis doesn’t go for exact realism, his environments and set-dressings resemble those of a play, and for better or worse, some of the characters (such as the pothead accomplice and the cops at the end) feel cartoonish. JGL narrates directly into the camera from locations like the torch on the Statue of Liberty, and the green screen/visual effects allow the ‘camera’ to move through impossible locations in ways that would be extremely difficult to pull off in the actual settings (like directly over JGL’s head as he toes the line between the Towers).

It’s no secret that I generally despise 3D, but I don’t think this film will have the same effect in 2D on a TV or small screen. The giant IMAX screen really adds to the experience and is a major part of the fun. I still think that Man on Wire is the best way to consume this story (for awe, you can’t beat the actual footage of Petit on a wire), but it’s such an amazing feat and wild tale that I don’t mind it being repackaged for commercial consumption. The Walk will lead more people to see the documentary and that’s a good thing; it also serves as an entertaining (if not entirely necessary) complimentary piece.

The Walk– 3.75 out of 5 Nerdskulls

Man on Wire– 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls

The Walk has been playing on IMAX screens since 9/30 and opens for wide-release on regular screens 10/9. Seek out an IMAX if you have the option.

Check out the trailers:

Stills:

The Walk

teacher

Man on Wire:

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Salty Winters once said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies." He was quoting Audrey Hepburn.