Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz
As a director who often leaves a reasonable period of time between his movies, it’s fair to say that we approach each Robert Zemeckis film with the utmost of interest and expectation. When you possess a back catalogue that includes Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, then the assumption is that something rather special could be on its way.
That very assumption can be applied to his latest offering, The Walk, a story of one man following his impossible dream and showing courage and bravery along the way.
Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an artist forever looking for his greatest body of work to showcase to the world. Living in France and earning a limited amount performing his wire acts in front of the crowds, Philippe is taught the majesty of performance by mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley).
With Papa Rudy’s experienced mind offering him invaluable advice and his partner Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) supporting him as his hopes and dreams get bigger, the Frenchman embarks on his most audacious stunt yet – a high-wire act between New York’s Twin Towers. Banding together a team of experts to help him on his ‘impossible mission’, Philippe must remain calm, confident and composed as his life depends on it.
As audacious as Petit’s very own stunt performed in 1974, the very thought of a filmmaker looking to replicate the dizzying heights of the World Trade Centre is one that makes the mind boggle. True to his film catalogue, Robert Zemeckis is never one to shy away from an engaging and engrossing story, once again bringing to the fray an undoubtedly inspired and magnetic tale.
Building the real-life character of Petit up from his origins in high-wire performing to the very moment in which he takes on his impossible dream, Zemeckis draws in the audience, along with the special talents of Gordon-Levitt. Petit may be an often arrogant and cocky individual, but his passion and drive for something incredible draws us to him. Those around him are coaxed in by his brilliance and we as an audience are ultimately led across the wire to support him in every challenge he faces. This is all portrayed superbly by an ever-impressive JGL, wistfully gracing us with his on-point French accent and beautifully poised narration that drives the film on perfectly.
His support too is commendable, with Ben Kingsley playing the mentor with the utmost of ease, while the likes of James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz and crew all add that extra layer of excitement and togetherness for the focus characters.
Where the film especially excels is in the exceptional directing talents of its veteran master of ceremonies. Zemeckis knows how to make the audience tick and his combination of slick storytelling combined with tension and visual splendour combine to create one of the surprise hits of the year so far.
While we blissfully build up to the ultimate moments in which we are prepared to witness in the main wire act, Zemeckis cleverly weaves a tapestry of event preparation that is just as fresh and attention-grabbing as the ‘main event’. For every laugh within the collective group of Petit’s men, there is a moment of tension striking widespread fear into us viewers as final preparations hit snags. As for the actual moments in which our man hits the wire for his terrifying stunt – it’s beauty personified, in both presentation and sheer cinematographic precision.
With every inch of New York privy to the naked eye, Zemeckis and his team send us into a dreamscape, cleverly coated by clouds, only to be cleared in an instance to provide the most death-defying of stunts providing brutally heart-stopping views. Every camera swoop defies gravity, every step provides a skipped beat of the heart, and each second finds us clutching at the arms of our seats. These are moments built for IMAX and 3D.
The Walk is a showcase of human spirit, emotion and heart, as well as daring us to stomach the divine views of the cloudy realms in which the daring Philippe Petit challenged himself to walk among. Beautifully presented, in both human connectivity and eye-catching grace, this is one of the breakout surprises of 2015 so far and demands your attention.