Film Review: The Walk (USA, 2015)

After seeing the trailers for Joseph Gordon Levitt’s new film The Walk,I was anticipating a complete and utter disaster that would make me wonder what I ever saw in the actor. The preview entailed horrible French accents and what appeared to be incredibly unnecessary 3D. It seemed to be Hollywood gone wild; but oh, how wrong I was.

The Walk tells the true story of Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) – the man who performed an illegal wire walk between the World Trade Centres in 1974. You’ve probably already heard his story in the critically acclaimed documentary, Man On Wire. Given the aforementioned films success, The Walk needed an edge to differentiate it from such a film in order to even stand a chance.

And that it did. Director Robert Zemeckis clearly knows what he’s up against, producing a film thats not only biographically, but also reads like a child’s storybook, capturing the pure amazement that accompanies such a momentous event. It’s hard to create a film from a story that is already so well known; the ending is already known – predictability being it’s kryptonite. That is, hypothetically. Zemeckis is aware of the films potentially fatal flaw, not relying on the narrative itself, but rather the method in which the narrative is told. Levitt narrates the story on top of the Statue of Liberty, providing hilarious, insightful, and suspenseful commentary to support the visuals.

However, at times the childish element of the story leaves little wondering to the audience. As we are constantly told how Petit feels, what he is doing, and where he wants to go, there seems to be an inherent distrust to the audience’s intelligence. This is one of those cases where narration is used far too enthusiastically with a story that is far too simplistic.

But I feel like that isn’t the point of the story. The point of The Walk is to amaze the audiences in the same way that contemporary audiences were amazed by Petit. In saying that, the films use of technology that is the real hero. As Petit walked the wire, I did too – gaining a real understanding of the sheer scale that accompanies walking at the eightieth story of a building. The perception is so realistic, it even had the man in front of me physically jump out of the way in order to avoid being hit by a falling image. You get vertigo like Petit surely did. Above all, the technology conveys the real threat of the story, supporting the narrative in such a wonderful way that it could convert anyone who dislikes 3D (myself included). This is one of those rare examples of when 3D is done right, especially amidst a world where it is constantly utilised as a gimmick.

Remember the buzz that surrounded Avatar upon it’s release in 2010? I anticipate that the same thing will accompany The Walk, if only it’s audiences look past the shotty accents and simplistic storyline. I can say, without a doubt, that you will never get me wire walking across an eighty floored building; but The Walk makes me feel like I’ve done just that.


The Walk is in Australian cinemas from October 15.


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