After the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire told this story with such energy and suspense, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to make a full-on adventure movie. And it's no surprise that the filmmaker turned out to be Robert Zemeckis, known for putting the seemingly unfilmable on the screen, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Forrest Gump to The Polar Express. So even if the film feels oddly artificial, this is a rousing, thrilling movie overflowing with cheeky energy.
At the centre of the story is Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a twinkle in his eye and a faintly silly French accent that works perfectly. In Paris, Philippe is working as a street performer when he sees a drawing of the planned Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center, and he immediately vows to put a wire between them and walk on it. Over the next few years, he recruits a team of accomplices, including his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and his circus-performer mentor Rudy (Ben Kingsley). Then in Manhattan, they find some men (James Badge Dale and Steve Valentine) to help them on the inside. And in August 1974, just before the towers were finished, they set their elaborate plan in motion.
While other accounts of this story describe Petit's high-wire performance in words and grainy still photos, Zemeckis uses swooping camera movement and vertiginous angles to give the audience goosebumps as Petit elegantly walks back and forth more than 400 meters above the gawping crowd below. After the rousing caper that went on before, this sequence is exhilarating. And Gordon-Levitt plays it beautifully, channeling the man's mischievous passion into every step. This even helps the audience accept the silly narration segments, in which Petit describes the action while perched on the top of the Statue of Liberty with 1970s Manhattan in the background.
Continue reading: The Walk Review