Friday, October 2, 2015

The Walk

Film: The Walk

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50) and Ben Kingsley (Hugo)

Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)

U.S. Release: October 2nd, 2015 (Rated PG)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 123 minutes

Although his name isn't stained in the fabric of our society like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, director Robert Zemeckis is a legend of Hollywood in his own right. As an Academy Award winning filmmaker who graced us with one of the most notable cinematic achievements of all-time, Forrest Gump, Zemeckis knows what it takes to captivate an audience. He returns this weekend to movie theaters all across the country with a soaring spectacle unlike anything we've ever seen. Alongside his show-stealing lead actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk unfolds as yet another winning effort from the iconic filmmaker.

As a young child growing up in France, Philippe Petit's (Gordon-Levitt) interest in magic and juggling culminates into something much more daring, a passion for tightrope walking. And in 1974 after Philippe hones his skill-set under the tutelage of a circus professional named Papa Rudy (Ben Kinglsey), he sets his sights on a higher and more death-defying target, an unharnessed walk between the world's new tallest buildings in New York City. Petit ventures to the Big Apple and, with his team of accomplices, pulls off the greatest artistic crime the world has ever witnessed.

One of my favorite revelations surrounding Robert Zemeckis' historical retelling, The Walk, is the surprising tone of the film. Sporting a more playful vibe rather than intense melodrama, the movie peels back layers of famed wire-walker Philippe Petit. And by taking the audience back to his childhood where the central figure's passion and appreciation for performing began, we're given a clear understanding of the fearless (and arguably insane) psyche of Petit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to deliver fine performances adding his portrayal of Petit to an already long list of quality work. While Gordon-Levitt is given almost the entirety of the screen time, he makes the most of his opportunity and shines in the role. Sprinkling in a pleasant collection of well-timed humor and an outstanding score from Alan Silvestri (who also composed the music for Forrest Gump), The Walk equates to far more than just a visual masterpiece.

Despite all of the film's impressive attributes, there are a few facets in which the movie is mishandled. Throughout Petit's criminal plot to set up a wire between New York City's Twin Towers prior to his dangerous tightrope walk (which he always refers to as "le coup"), we're introduced to the members of his team who help make the event possible. However, such little devotion is given to these side characters that the dramatic moments surrounding them all as the big day approaches end up falling flat. Even the relationship between Petit and his girlfriend throughout the film, Annie (played by Charlotte Le Bon), is widely underdeveloped. Furthermore, the visual returns to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's narration is oddly placed. It comes and goes throughout the film, but it never feels necessary or even warranted. Although The Walk fails to utilize its side characters appropriately and it relies on a poorly executed narration tactic, Zemeckis and company succeed in countless other areas that help dwarf these miscues by comparison.

I typically avoid any 3D showing of a film when possible. I tend to find the technique distracting and less enjoyable. However, The Walk does such a superb job of incorporating the I-MAX 3D into the film that I believe it actually enhances the experience. All of its breathtaking visuals are absolutely stunning and give the film a truly unique feel. Yet, while I wouldn't declare The Walk as a "must-see" feature, it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

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