There are very few feats as impressive as walking a wire between the Twin Towers. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, The Walk documents this event—not easy as it had to be recreated for the film. Man on Wire whetted the public’s appetite for the subject of tightrope walking and tightrope walker Philippe Petit, but this is a dramatic retelling of the events. It begins with Petit’s early life in France, where we had been a street performer. Sir Ben Kingsley uses his accent of the week as his older mentor Papa Rudy, and his girlfriend is played by French-Canadian actress Charlotte LeBon.
Petit is revealed as a dreamer (he still is, having obviously survived the walk) who pulled off one a most impressive acts of daring—it’s too dangerous for anyone to attempt with permission! Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of the best actors of this generation with a somewhat dodgy French accent but better than some other actors could do, stars as Petit. He doesn’t look that much like the actual Petit because it’s really about “the walk” as the title indicates.
The first third that gives the backstory is really a build up to the big set piece of the walk itself, and viewers are aware of this throughout. However, that’s fine, it is after the all the draw for the story. Because the walk was not captured on video, just in photos made by one of his crew, getting some idea of what it would be like is the main reason for the film to be made. The re-creation of the tightrope walk is a bit Hollywood but not in a bad way, fitting a 3D production with a serious budget. It’s full of tension, even for viewers who have seen Man on Wire, as Petit and his crew try to set up the incredibly dangerous stunt without getting caught.
The title could actually have been “The Dance,” as Petit made the most of his chance, walking between the two buildings eight times and even dancing, kneeling and playing around on the wire as he satisfied his obsession. With the police waiting on each side, he played to the audience. I watched it on a 29-inch screen in 2D, but would be intrigued to see it in 3D (for someone how doesn’t like heights, I probably made the right choice).
The film concludes with a bit of the aftermath—Petit was arrested, but the charges were dropped by the NYPD. He was given a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers observation deck, to which he returned many times thereafter. The events of 9/11 hangs over the whole film, as they did with the preceding documentary coverage, simply because the towers are no longer there. Petit has since said that if they are ever rebuilt, he would walk again. It is fine as a family film, befitting its PG rating. The Blu-Ray includes a couple of featurettes and deleted scenes.