January 20, 2016

The Walk

Robert Zemeckis, 2015
Robert Zemeckis has had a long career of directing unique / interesting films that have a lasting impact. Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Becomes Her, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away.. the list goes on. So much of his work is open for multiple viewings. So for me personally, he’s someone who I will see everything he does.

His latest work is a biopic of famed wire-walker Philippe Petit. Petit gained recognition for his daring stunt when he walked on wire between the two Twin Towers shortly after their construction in 1974. The stunt was the focus of the popular 2008 documentary Man on Wire. So going into the film you already know that it’s going to be a period piece / computer-generated simulation of the event, seeing as virtually everyone on Earth is aware that the Towers are no longer in existence. The casting of Joseph Gordon Levitt is welcomed, seeing as he is one of the more consistent modern working actors. 

But The Walk isn’t able to maintain that lasting impression that Zemeckis’ other films do. It’s a CGI-scape filled poor accents and not enough substance. First off, the Petit character comes off a purely arrogant, selfish man who doesn’t appreciate the people around him. One of which is girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) who is nothing more than a extension of Petit’s huge ego. She, like the other partners, are barely allowed to show any identity. Petit is a person with tunnel vision. He cares about nothing more than walking the wire and making the front page. So you are forced to spend a great deal of time with someone who is really not all that like-able and challenging to become invested in. The only redeeming qualities of Petit’s character is really Levitt’s natural charm that sneaks through. 

It becomes obvious that the only real reward of the film is going to be his inevitable wire-walk in the end. At that point it’s just frankly hard to believe that Levitt is suspended above anything but a green screen. And his defiant back and forth across the wire while the police wait anxiously on both buildings actually feels dragged out and aggravating. Not to take away from the quality of the effects. It's quite amazing that buildings like the Twin Towers can be so beautifully reconstructed on film. It all looks real, no doubt about that. The cars below, the 1970's Manhattan skyline, the ant-sized cars slowly moving 100 stories below. Maybe it's the fact that the buildings themselves cause such an visceral reaction because of their historical importance, that it's difficult to the trick the mind into believing what you are seeing - specifically with those buildings. It’s understandable that Zemeckis would be interested in making the picture because it’s certainly an interesting story. But maybe it’s better preserved in the documentary category.

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