‘The Walk’ – gripping with electrifying performances (IANS Rating: ****)

Film: “The Walk”; Language: English; Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kinsley, James Badge Dale, Clement Sibony and Cesar Domboy; Director: Robert Zemeckis; (IANS Rating: ****)


That’s what you are after watching the climax of “The Walk”, a biographical drama of Frenchman Philippe Petit. The film is about his “surprise, illegal, high-wire walk”, between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in August 1974.

Captured in Eastman colour tones, the film begins on a fantasy note – light and frivolous – till reality dawns, where the insanity of the artist, his art and the risk merge together, leaving you mesmerised and awestruck. And with the 3D effect, the film has its moments of cinematic joy.

Written by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on Philippe Petit’s book, “To Reach the Clouds”, the film is narrated in a non-linear manner which reveals Petit’s ambition and finer nuances of his character, effortlessly.

It begins with Phillipe, a wire-walker, magician, unicyclist and street performer, speaking to the audience from atop the Statue of Liberty with the iconic buildings as its backdrop.

He throws at you the same questions, you are certain to ask him at the end of the film. Questions like, “Why do you tempt fate? Why would you risk your life?”

Packed with lessons of fulfilling his dreams and ambition, he tells us how his fascination for walking the wire began; his baby-steps in wire walking, his inciting moment at the dentist’s clinic when he saw the picture of the proposed towers that attracted him like a magnet.

He also speaks about his inspiration and accomplices; his mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), his girl-friend Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon) and his unlikely cadre of helpers who aided him to carry out the coup.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with his slightly impish and arrogant demeanour, is a perfect fit for Zemecki’s vision of Philippe. His blatant, “It’s impossible, but I’ll do it” reeks of an impulsive platitude and dubious ambition which makes his act gripping and performance appealing.

This is evident especially when he moves back and forth between the towers, pausing to sit, look down and taunt the police officers who have gathered on either roof of the towers.

Charlotte Le Bon as the street singer Annie is more humane and realistic. It is her encouraging words, “If you dream it, you should do it” is what propels Philippe to take the plunge. And your heart bleeds for her, when she decides to return to Paris from New York.

Ben Kingley as his mentor Papa Rudy, with a tough exterior and a soft heart, is stereotypical. And the rest of the motley group with limited screen time are reduced to hammy side-kicks.

With excellent production values, director Zemeckis along with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s camera-work has managed to; replicate the era, blend his characters and the computer-generated images in such a way that breath taking visuals spring naturally from the material itself.

What elevates the viewing experience is Alan Silvestri’s music, Randy Thom’s sound designs and Jeremiah O’Driscoll’s fine edits.

Finer details of Philippe’s journey especially his trials and tribulations are lost in the 124-minute runtime, making it seem like a piece of fiction.

Nevertheless, “The Walk” keeps you on the edge during its show-stopping sequence, which is worth a watch.

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