You sense that director Robert Zemeckis has found a kindred spirit in Philippe Petit. After all, Zemeckis has spent most of his career tinkering with technology to make the impossible possible. Likewise, Petit has made a life by wowing folks with his awe-inspiring feats.
Of course, Zemeckis goes nuts with the CGI in The Walk, telling the true story of the French street performer and wirewalker who got some accomplices together to execute his “coup”walking a tightrope between the World Trade Center towersin 1974.
Instead of casting an actual French person, Zemeckis places Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role. Though his accent and wig both reek of artifice, he makes up for it with game, showboating agility. Because it is set in the ’70s, the whole movie is littered with cockamamie accents and hairpieces. Playing Petit’s mentor, Sir Ben Kingsley shows up with an accent so hammy and wandering I still have no idea where his character originated from.
While Zemeckis, who co-wrote the film with Christopher Browne, makes sure the movie looks wondrous, most of the characters are campy caricatures, especially after Petit and company touch down in the Big Apple and mingle with the Noo Yawk folk. But the second half is suspenseful and engrossing, as Petit and his surprisingly willing crew try to hatch their plan while dodging cops and security guards.
Technically, there’s no good reason for The Walk to exist, since director James Marsh already made Man on Wire, the crowd-pleasing, Oscar-winning 2008 documentary on Petit’s World Trade Center stunt. But like his subject, walking high up in the air so long ago, Zemeckis went ahead and did it because, hey, why the hell not? He clearly wants to put viewers in Petit’s shoes as he goes back and forth between the towers, something that acrophobic people should give serious consideration before seeing it in IMAX 3D.
This article appeared in print with the headline “Faulty towers”