NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: Robert Zemeckis has created some of the best films of the last 30 years. “Forrest Gump” is one of cinema’s finest masterpieces, “Back to the Future” revolutionized the time travel genre, and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is a beautiful merge of animation and the real world. With his newest effort “The Walk,” Zemeckis creates an apparent respect and adoration of New York City and the twin towers that haven’t really been seen in film post-9/11 however, his narrative tones and setup are both uninspired and dull, all leading up to a grand finale that makes the film simply watchable. Helmed by a very determined Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the visual spectacle creates a real sense of height and wonder, portraying breathtaking effects. Though its only half passable, the film feels like an appropriate and perfect opener for the New York Film Festival.
“The Walk” tells the story of high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who in 1974, recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.
Written by Christopher Browne and Robert Zemeckis, “The Walk” is narrated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, on top of the torch of the Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center towers in the background. He addresses the audience with every thought, which is heavily relied upon from the film’s writing team. From the opening of Levitt’s monologue, the entire set up looks like the beginning of a “Saturday Night Live” episode where Levitt himself, was hosting. Giggles were sprinkled among the audience as the first minutes passed but eventually Gordon-Levitt settles into his role. His accent was impressive, speaking fluent French, and to the untrained ear, he nails his lines. From an emotional perspective, Levitt leaves much to be desired. In his defense, the script does him no favors. Browne and Zemeckis inflects a wit and charm into Philippe that can come off annoying and unlikable.
Co-star Charlotte Le Bon, who plays Annie, Philippe’s girlfriend, is a sensitive addition, trying her very best to elevate the one-dimensional character that she’s given. James Badge Dale is best-in-show, giving personality and spunk to a vastly underwritten role. Ben Kingsley is added as veteran acting wallpaper, just to show experience and dignity in a role that can be done in his sleep.
IMAX 3D is put to fantastic use. The final hour is a sequence that stands as one of the year’s best. To watch Petit set up for the death-defying stunt was totally engaging, and seeing him take his first steps on the wire was a fantastic spectacle. The natural thoughts go to the Oscar-winning “Man on Wire,” but what Zemeckis focuses on is his time on the wire, walking back and forth, making daring moves, and utilizing 3D imagery to inflict real fear and anxiety into the audience. From a directorial standpoint, Zemeckis attempts to make his “Hugo,” using 3D as something to progress and tell the story impeccably, placing the audience right there on the wire.
“The Walk” is an ambitious and respectable misstep. The Visual Effects are well worth the price of a ticket in an IMAX theater, and with the final sequence as long as it is, you should definitely seek it out.
“The Walk” opens in theaters on October 9 and is distributed by Sony and TriStar Pictures.