Tuesday 6 October 2015

Zurich Film Festival - The Walk

The Walk (123 mins)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

If you’re wondering why the plot of The Walk sounds familiar it’s because documentary feature Man On Wire covered the same ground in Oscar-winning fashion in 2008. It was told with such style and vigour that it worked as a thriller in its own right, further raising the question of the need for this dramatisation of how Philippe Petit attempted to tightrope walk between the World Trade Centre buildings in 1974. The only real way to justify it is to show us things that the doc couldn’t, and this is where The Walk triumphs, albeit only once we hit the final third or so. Director Robert Zemeckis has always been something of a visual effects pioneer in his films and he takes us on an astounding ride here as Petit balances on his wire and the camera glides all around him, with stomach-lurching drops to the streets of New York below, and if doesn’t exactly look realistic, it certainly looks amazing. Up until that point scenes are mostly variations on someone telling Philippe he’s crazy and him agreeing with them and saying he has to do it anyway. As such there’s not exactly a surfeit of great drama, although once Petit and his accomplices reach the States it takes on the mantle of a heist movie and offers some tense moments. Joseph Gordon-Levitt adopts a convincing French accent to play Petit and is an agreeable lead, while the film makes the most sensible use since Inglourious Basterds of characters not speaking their own language.

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