In 1974, Phillipe Petit walked on a line between the two towers of the World Trade Center. He was up there for almost an hour performing different tricks before he finally gave in to the police. No one told him to walk the line. But he did it. Not for money, not for sport, not for accolades. He did it because that was what life meant to him. 41 years after that, he helped Joseph Gordon Levitt to play himself by training him for eight days to walk the wire. The end result is for all of us to see. The Walk is in many ways one of the best biographical thrillers of recent times. It is laced with such thrills and sublime visual wizardry that you cannot help but be in awe of its sheer power and beauty.
Phillipe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) has been in look out for places where he could hang his wire and walk. His insatiable hunger for that one daring walk brings him to the US where he decides to walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. However that is a task which is not only illegal but also extremely difficult to accomplish. The challenges are technical in nature to start with. The positioning of the wire, the checks on the clamps, the challenge of fixing the wires in two separate building and getting into the buildings after night in the first place proves to be difficult. The film takes us through the whole preparation and culminates in Petit’s exemplary feat which involved him walking, dancing, lying down, seating and saluting on the wire between the two buildings that are 1300 feet high apiece.
This is a film which is 2 hours long, but it felt more like a half an hour affair to me. There is just so much happening and at such pace that you are bound to feel exasperated. The narrative is approached like that of a heist thriller wherein a group of robbers make their way into a building after studying its structure and loopholes. The only difference here is in the fact that the men in question just want to get to the top of the buildings and hang a wire on which to walk the next day. The film’s screenplay is comprehensible in spite of the fact that more than a mouthful is unfolding in every sequence. There are just a few calm moments like the one to one between Petit and papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), the one to one discussion between Petit and Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and the final lull before he takes to the wire. Except these brief moments, the film is characterized with dialogs and events that unfold at a “blink and miss” speed.
After watching dozens of films in 3D over the years, I had practically lost the charm of the third dimension which for me evaporated within a few minutes of watching a film. The Walk brings back the charms of 3D that was made popular in a special way by films like Life of Pie, Hugo and Gravity. This here is a film which should be watched only in 3D. During the walks, the 3D contributes into making the audience feel the actual depth, which I believed would have lost a lot in the traditional 2D format. The visual effects, in their sparkling best are only elevated by the intelligent and imaginative use of the 3D. This is a film which was tailor-made for 3D and Robert Zemeckis was intelligent enough to see that. Even the simpler sequences not involving any special effects is intelligently shot in 3D making them more appealing.
The visual effects of the film are stupendous. Be it the final walk between the two towers, the subtle visual tricks to show the mental state of Petit or the scene where they try out if a bow and an arrow can be used as a carrier or not. The visuals literally engulf your senses taking control of your mind. There were innumerable Oh! And Ahh! in the theater where I was watching this film and they were justified. The best thing about the visuals is the fact that it gels effortlessly with the narrative. The effects appear only to bring to life the experiences that Petit must have experienced in first person. None of the effects jump out of the screen. You just feel it because you are so immersed in what you are watching. The art design complements the effects to a “t” in recreating the 1974 America which I felt was flawless.
Levitt is immensely likeable as Petit. He carries an easy charm and vibrant energy which is hard not to fall in love with. He also works as the narrator of the film. There are sequences wherein he is standing with the Twin Towers in the background and narrating the story which gives the film a very documentary sort of a feel and has a compounded effect on you. Charlotte Le Bon as Annie is wonderful. Ben Kingsley makes a brief appearance as Papa Rudy. It’s always a pleasure to watch him on screen. James Badge Dale as JP is a comic relief. He is also an extremely important member of the team.
The Walk is easily one of the most trifling films of the year. The climax alone is worth the price of admission. But it has to be watched in the biggest screen possible and definitely in 3D. Apart from the amazing visuals, the superb performances and a bucket full of thrills, the film also has a functional script which has all the elements of an enterprising heist drama. That’s another aspect which is bound to keep you engrossed. Watch Petit do the unthinkable as history unfolds yet again for your viewing pleasures. This is an instant classic and a must watch.