The Walk follows the story of Philippe Petit who, as a boy, sneaks into the circus and is transfixed by the high wire performers. The skill, the daring do, the showmanship. He has to learn how they achieve this amazing feat. This chance glimpse of another world leads him on a trajectory from a rope around two trees, through performing in the streets of Paris, to walking between the World Trade Centre Towers.
This is a story about ambition, following your dreams and making them reality no matter what. Anything is possible if you just believe.
We first see Philippe stood on the Statue Of Liberty as an adult regaling us with his audacious tale. This framing device is used throughout the film and is a constant distraction along with the narrative that stems from theses scenes. It pulls you away from the film sometimes at moments of high tension, when they’re hiding from guards in the tower or when Philippe starts his life changing walk between the towers. This would be much better left to the audience’s imagination, let them fill in the gaps rather than pulling them out with unnecessary narration.
At times it feels that visual effects are used because they can be, rather than to drive the narrative forward or emphasise a point. This can be seen when we catch up with Philippe in Paris, nearly all the colour is drained out of the frame except for certain items such as the food on the table at a Parisian cafe. Why? I will never know.
The cast do well with what they’re given, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s French accent seems strange at first but you do get used it as the film goes on. You can measure his commitment to the role by the fact that he learnt to walk the wire for real. The rest of the cast, bar Ben Kingsley’s Papa Rudy, are just there. Kingsley gets more to work with as he possesses the knowledge that Philippe needs to fulfil his dream. We never find out what motivates them to follow Philippe and essentially collaborate in criminal acts. Even he points out during the film he’s not the easiest person to get along with! The supporting cast are two dimensional, the focus is completely on Philippe.
The walks, oh the walks are truly breathtaking, tension filled scenes of bravery, madness, pushing yourself to the limit. The camera swirls around Philippe, closing in on the concentration and determination palpable on his face, his feet slowly making their way along the wire suspended in the heavens. These sequences, especially the final walk between the towers, give you a real sense of scale leaving you breathless as if you were on the wire with him. The audacity and the drive of the man all come together in one glorious wire walk above the streets of New York.
As much as this is a about Philippe Petit, it’s about the World Trade Centre. What it meant to people, what it inspired and how nothing stays the same however much we dream. The dream surrounding the building of the towers was as much as Philippe’s dream of walking between them. They stood for a different world for the one we live in today.
The film is bittersweet for all his achievements, he will never have that feeling again. The exhilaration of walking out into the void above us all where no man is meant to be. Forever never lasts forever.