Anyone who suffers from a fear of heights might want to think again before investing in a ticket to watch The Walk, Robert Zemeckis' dramatized celebration of Frenchman Phillippe Petit's daring high-wire walk between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in 1974. It was a stunning, seemingly impossible feat, and Zemeckis recreates it wondrously - in 3D IMAX, no less - making you feel as if you're right up there, 1350 feet above the ground, on that wire yourself.
But before that one must trudge through the film's tedious first hour, in which Petit (played earnestly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, sporting a thick French accent) addresses the viewer directly, taking us back to his early years in France, his apprenticeship with a circus showman (Ben Kingsley), his romance with a street musician (Charlotte Le Bon), and his assembling of an unlikely team of accomplices to help him realize his dream.
It isn't until Petit arrives in New York City that The Walk really starts to crackle. There's tension and suspense as our protagonist and his crew navigate extraordinary hurdles - including sneaking into the buildings with loads of heavy equipment, then setting up the wire - in preparation to pull off "the coup".
But Zemeckis saves the best for the final 30 minutes, when Petit steps on the wire between the towers, 110 stories off the ground. As the camera swoops and soars catching the action from every possible angle, you'll find yourself clutching your armrest, occasionally shutting your eyes to block out the vertigo. It's exhilarating, breathtaking stuff, and I promise you'll be riveted.
It all comes together so well in the end that you're even willing to forgive the clunky, sometimes whimsical early portions, and the strictly hit-and-miss comedy of the first hour.
Petit's extraordinary story was also the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, whose slick blend of archival footage, still photographs, dramatic re-enactments and interviews made it an incredibly compelling watch. The only thing missing in that film was video footage of the actual walk itself.
Although recreated, it's the piece de resistance of Zemeckis' film.
I'm going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Walk.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
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