I’d probably wound up not watching this movie if I didn’t stumble upon the trailer when I watched The Martian last week. It honestly give nothing away about this movie aside the obvious appearance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Still, it was too beautiful to ignore, and my gamble to go blind paid of.
Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a wire walker with one dream: to walk the immense void between the twin towers of World Trade Center. An act that’s not only dangerous, but is also illegal. So to realize his dream, he must recruit the right accomplices.
When you’re picturing an event that had already happened, especially a “based on true story” movie about a person, your biggest challenge is keeping the audience attentive despite knowing how it would end. It’s not a matter of whether or not Philippe would be able to cross, it’s a matter of how would he achieve it and how would that look? This, in particular, is why The Walk was impressive. It portrays Philippe’s action as more than just walking in a wire – it truly is a coup. And I truly respect Robert Zemeckis’ decision to portray that important walk as more or less a heist. It’s a choice that adds more thrills to the story and make you realize that damn, this is more than just challenging death in the face as you attempt the impossible. This is also doing something illegal that would require a well-executed plan by the right crew. With this approach, Zemeckis got himself the right entry point to not only move the story along but also setting the entrance for each characters.
And just like Philippe, Zemeckis pull this coup with superb precision. Despite my initial skepticism about the duration, none of those 123 minutes felt dragging or wasted. Philippe’s restless narration keep the pace light and quick, jumping from one accident into another accomplishment with practiced ease, utilizing the kind of time-skipping transition that would felt jumbled or confusing without his narration. Because this, this is a man telling his story in his own fascinating way and you can’t really fault him for skipping certain points so he doesn’t bore you, right? This narration also allows Philippe to start at the most important point by introducing himself and what he aims, before going back in time to how it all started, and finally set the plan in motions without making the flashback felt out of place. And, I would admit, I really do enjoy his narration and his little quip here and there, as it also set up his personality and made him feel really human. Philippe Petit is a man obsessed with his dream and while he can be manic at times, he is an easy charmer who could sweep you off of your feet.
The Walk, however, have the weakness that plague most of it’s kind. It succeed in portraying Philippe and delivering one of the biggest coup of all time, but that’s that. It’s a movie that is so Philippe-centered that you barely get any time to know the other characters. Oh sure you know their name, their use, and what part they play in the coup, but you will never know them on more significant level. It was a blessing that those characters were played by decent actors who could hold their ground, or else they would really just be another face in the crowd. Annie, especially, is far two dimensional for someone that’s supposedly held Philippe’s heart and play a huge part in helping him realize his dream. Yet, you can’t deny that this lack of spotlight on other characters or the vague allusion to what happened after the coup is something that is so Philippe. This, after all, is a story told by a man with narcissistic tendency. It’s not that big of a surprise that despite being friends, he really doesn’t see their use as more than accomplices in achieving his dream and that whatever happened after the coup is not important because that Walk is the culmination of his career and life.
Of course, The Walk wouldn’t be as enticing as it is if not for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his deliverance of Philippe Petit. I must admit, I’m a bit baffled that Zemeckis go with him instead of casting a French actor to play a French man, especially considering that his friends are all portrayed by French actors and actress. Still, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was convincing and his accents aren’t quite half bad. I really adore the egoistical and obsessive man hidden underneath those easygoing personality he put on, and I love it when that crazed man finally comes out. His vacant stare in that particular scene was downright heartbreaking and infuriating. The others, though, were fleeting just like their characters are. The only exception, of course, is Ben Kingsley. I mean, he’s Ben Kingsley, he’s bound to catch your eye and smother you with his charm. He’s my favorite character in this movie, to be honest, and there were times when I huff in annoyance at Philippe with how he’s treating him. But the way he actually care under those harsh veneer make it a done deal. This may be Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s show as it is Philippe Petit’s coup, but it won’t shine as bright and he won’t succeed without Ben Kingsley and Papa Rudy. Oh and Cesar Domboy is kind of cute as Jeff, especially with his fear of height and how, against all odds, he keeps doing his best to aid Philippe.
It helps that he looks a bit like William Beckett too.
I’m not going to lie, The Walk is not the kind of movie that most will enjoy. There’s no in-your-face spectacle to make you gasp, or any dramatic romance that would make you sigh in happiness. But it is a thrilling story about how hard one would try to achieve his dream, as impossible as it is. It’s a story about a man who is so obsessed he sometimes lost sight of what’s important aside from his own goal, a story of how a narcissistic learn a bit of humility. And when Robert Zemeckis present it in a movie made to be experienced in 3D, with breathtaking shots and vertigo-inducing view, what comes after is an experience that would left you a little bit weak in the knee. And you’d wound up appreciating Philippe’s obsession because, after all, it is very peaceful and beautiful up there.
Director: Robert Zemeckis. Writers: Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne. Released on: 7 October 2015. Casts: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon.