Wednesday, August 03, 2016
The Walk (2015)
Based on the novel To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit, The Walk is the story of Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between on top of the World Trade Center buildings in August of 1974. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and screenplay by Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, the film is a dramatic take on the real-life story of Petit’s legendary walk as he is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Also starring Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Steve Valentine, Ben Schwartz, and Ben Kingsley. The Walk is a thrilling and mesmerizing film from Robert Zemeckis.
On August 6, 1974, French high-wire walker Philippe Petit did a walk on a wire between the two roofs on top of the twin towers of the World Trade Center as it was a feat that seemed to be impossible. The film is about what Petit did and what it took to pull off something like this as it is told by Petit just after he had done the impossible where reflects on what made him become a high-wire walker as well as wanting to do things that had never been done. With the guidance of his mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) and the support of friends including girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), Petit plans to do the high-wire act as it would take time and effort as he also awaits for the buildings to be nearly finished. The film’s script is quite straightforward in some respects as it is told in a reflective manner by Petit with some voice-over narration. Notably as it play into Petit’s fascination with walking on a wire as well as the slow-build into creating the ultimate high-wire walk while the script isn’t afraid to show flaws in Petit’s character as he is quite crazy in what he wants to do as well as being very eccentric.
Robert Zemeckis’ direction is definitely astonishing in terms of the visuals he creates as it is about that sense of the impossible. Even as he re-creates early 1970s New York City where the World Trade Center towers once stood as much of the film is shot in Montreal as parts of Paris and New York City with much of it shot on soundstages. Zemeckis’ usage of wide and medium shots play into the scope and scale of what Petit has to do as well as try to create a sense of realism in the high-wire walks. Zemeckis isn’t afraid to go into stylistic shots whether it’s a low-angle shot or from above as it adds to the sense of danger of what Petit will do.
The recurring shot of Petit talking top of the light at the Statue of Liberty is among one of the stylish moments of the film as it has the World Trade Center towers in the background while Petit is seen in the foreground in a wide-medium shot. The scenes preceding the climatic walk does have a feel of a heist film with its air of suspense and some humor as it would lead to that enthralling climax that is the walk. Overall, Zemeckis creates an evocative and exhilarating film about a man performing a high-wire walk on top of the World Trade Center towers.
Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of black-and-white and de-colored photography for some of the early scenes set in Paris to the lighting for the scenes in setting up the walk as well as the colorful look of the climatic walk. Editor Jeremiah O’Driscoll does nice work with the stylish editing in its usage of jump-cuts as well as some montage-cutting style into the evolution of Petit‘s work as a performer. Production designer Naomi Shohan, with art director Felix Lariviere-Charron and set decorators Geoffrey Gosselin and Ann Smart, does amazing work with the look of the Parisian home that Petit stays as well as the look of the rooftops of the two towers. Costume designer Suttriat Anne Larlarb does fantastic work with the costumes as it plays into the look of the early 70s for many of the characters in the film as well as the simple clothes that Petit wears in his high-wire walk.
Visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie, Jim Gibbs, Viktor Muller, and Sebastien Moreau do brilliant work with the visual effects from the re-creation of the 1970s New York City and Paris as well as the film‘s climax in the walk. Sound editor Bjorn Ole Schroeder and sound designer Randy Thom do superb work with the sound as it play with the sounds of the elevator and things in the towers as well as some of the calm moments in the film that includes the climatic walk. The film’s music by Alan Silvestri is wonderful for its orchestral-based score with its lush-string arrangements that range from being playful to dramatic as it also includes bits of folk guitar as well as funk where the soundtrack would feature a lot of music from the 70s.
The casting by Scot Boland and Victoria Burrows is marvelous as it include some notable small roles from Ben Schwartz and Benedict Samuel as a couple of Americans who volunteer for the stunt unaware of what they’re getting themselves into as well as a terrific performance from Steve Valentine as a businessman named Barry Greenhouse who joins in knowing who Petit is. Cesar Domboy is superb as the acrophobic Jeff who helps Petit in setting up the wire in the North Tower while Clement Sibony is excellent as Jean-Louis as the man who would take photos of all of Petit’s walks as well as be the accomplice in all of the set-ups for the high-wire walks. James Badge Dale is brilliant as Jean-Pierre as an American who can speak perfect French as he helps Petit and the gang in getting things done as he can bullshit his way through any situation.
Ben Kingsley is amazing as Papa Rudy as Petit’s mentor who would teach him what to do in preparing something as astronomical as his stunt as well as be taken aback by what Petit is trying to do without some form of safety. Charlotte Le Bon is remarkable as Annie as a street musician who meets and falls for Petit as she joins him in the trip as well as do whatever she can to help him and be his moral compass. Finally, there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a phenomenal performance as Philippe Petit as this kind of crazy but determined performer who can do juggling and all sorts of things while his main gift is to walk on a high wire as he wants to do one of the craziest stunts where Gordon-Levitt provides some charm and energy as it’s one of his finest performances.
The Walk is a sensational film from Robert Zemeckis that features an incredible performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit. Featuring an excellent supporting cast and dazzling visuals, it’s a film that plays into what could be possible with some imagination and determination. While the 2008 James Marsh documentary Man on Wire is the more definitive story of Petit, this is still a fitting companion to Marsh’s film. In the end, The Walk is a remarkable film from Robert Zemeckis.
Related: Man on Wire
Robert Zemeckis Films: (I Wanna Hold Your Hand) - (Used Cars) - (Romancing the Stone) - Back to the Future - (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) - (Back to the Future Part II) - (Back to the Future Part III) - (Death Becomes Her) - (Forrest Gump) - (Contact) - (What Lies Beneath) - (Cast Away) - (The Polar Express) - (Beowulf (2007 film)) - (A Christmas Carol (2009 film)) - Flight (2012 film) - (Doc Brown Saves the World) - (Allied (2016 film))
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