In 1974, Philippe Petit set out on a covert operation to attach the Twin Towers by a wire and walk across. The act was what he regarded as an artistic coup and would require the forethought of a heist and the nerve of someone with a death wish. The awe-inspiring stunt would get him arrested and immediately pardoned. The new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt touches on these points. The film however, fails to convince the audience of the charisma required to rebel in such a way. Intense special effects unnecessarily dominate this film in which Gordon-Levitt is contrived to look nothing like Philippe Petit.

‘The Walk’ Movie Review

Philippe Petit is a social outcast, raised in the countryside of France and son of an airline pilot he is kicked out of his home. Nothing can changed his trajectory in life; his aspiration is to be an artist. “The carrots are cooked” as his father says. With his mother crying a protest, he takes his unicycle and heads to Paris to perform on the street as a juggler and tight rope walker. He draws crowds by drawing a circle on the ground and prohibiting his audience from entering.

The moment of inspiration comes to Philippe when he cracks a tooth. After a stereotypically French tiff with the receptionist, he takes a seat in the waiting room of the dentists office and cracks open a magazine. Then he sees an artist rendition of the yet-to-be-built towers of the World Trade Center. Thus begins his quest for finances and accomplices. He meets sweet and supportive Annie (Charlotte Le Bon). She quickly gets on board with his suicide mission. He is also joined by photographers Jean-Louise (Clement Sibony), Jean-Pierre (James Badge Dale), and Jeff (César Domboy), among a few insignificant others. But a major influence on him is Papa Rudy, played by Ben Kingsley.

Papa Rudy is a circus legend. He teaches Philippe everything he will need to know to pull off his walk, mostly because if he doesn’t Philippe will most certainly die in front of everybody he is trying to impress. That would be embarrassing to say the least.

The special effects become hard to bear as Philippe challenges himself to further heights. Jeff is present with Philippe during the harrowing attempt to hang the wire a hundred storeys above the ground. Jeff is afraid of heights and is simply there to accentuate Philippe’s courage.

The film is loaded with exaggerated French attitude and humor, most of which will not resonate with American audiences. The most humorous points of the film are much more subtle and in the form of Jean-Pierre, or “JP in America.” Any viewer who wants to look further into the story will find photos of the real Philippe Petit, and wonder why Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hair is so dark and his eyes are unrealistically blue for a character fair haired in real life.

Pictured: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit.

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