The Walk
dir Robert Zemeckis
scr Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Browne
prd Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke, Tom Rothman
with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, James Badge Dale, Benedict Samuel, Steve Valentine, Ben Schwartz, Mark Camacho, Sergio Di Zio, Jason Blicker
release US 2.Oct.15, UK 9.Oct.15
15/US TriStar 1h03
The Walk
A crazy idea: Le Bon and Gordon-Levitt

gordon-levitt kingsley dale
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The Walk Zemeckis pulls out all the tops for this visually whizzy adventure based on the astonishing stunt pulled by wire-walker Philippe Petit in August 1974, as he illicitly strung a tightrope between the unfinished towers of New York's World Trade Center and wowed the world with his performance. In recreating this, Zemeckis definitely gets the adrenaline pumping.

Petit (Gordon-Levitt) was a street performer in Paris who became obsessed with the Twin Towers the first time he saw a news story about plans to build them. As they near completion, he trains with his circus-performer mentor (Kingsley) and gathers a group of gung-ho accomplices, including girlfriend Annie (Le Bon). They then to New York to find further local cohorts (Dale and Valentine) and make an elaborate plan to sneak into the buildings, install the wire and be out on it as people begin arriving for work the next morning.

The final half of the film plays out like an elaborate heist, with plenty of outrageous wrinkles that threaten to scupper the whole project. Obviously, almost all of this movie is digital trickery, so Zemeckis can keep the camera wooshing vertiginously above and around the action, which can't help but give the audience goosebumps (especially in Imax 3D). Meanwhile, he indulges in an odd stylistic running gag, frequently pulling back the camera to allow Gordon-Levitt to narrate the film from atop the Statue of Liberty.

Through all of this Gordon-Levitt bravely mimics Petit's French accent, although the character's mischievous twinkle helps overcome this fairly quickly. It's an energetic, likeable performance as a man determined to do something outrageous simply to make an artistic expression. And indeed, the wire-walk itself is stirringly emotional, even if the restlessly soaring camerawork distracts from the deeper feelings. And the other characters essentially just fade into the background, becoming little more than a chorus of approval.

In other words, Zemeckis sacrifices character depth for eye-catching visuals and a more simplistic adventure story. But at least it's an emotionally engaging one, played with plenty of cheeky attitude. It leaps along at an entertaining clip, and of course the visuals are simply astonishing, continually making our stomachs lurch at the sheer drop from the top of the towers. And if we want the deeper story, we can always watch (and rewatch) the even more riveting Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire.

cert pg themes, language 21.Sep..15

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