Robert Zemeckis' The Walk is a dazzling production that demands to be seen in IMAX 3D thanks to its larger-than-life visuals and spectacular camerawork, but the film's actual story, based on high-wire artist Philippe Petit's incredible achievement, fails to draw the attention that Petit respectfully deserves.
Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk is going to remind everyone just how important IMAX 3D can be when presenting a film. Zemeckis has strategically created his latest film around the gigantic format in a way that shows technical craft and attention to detail, almost as flawlessly as high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s daring walk between the World Trade Center buildings.
Zemeckis use to be an exceptionally gifted filmmaker that gave us films like Cast Away, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump. Not too long ago he got sidetracked in the world of CGI and animation, eventually returning in full-force with Flight, starring Denzel Washington.
The Walk lies somewhere in between Flight and Zemeckis’ work in animation (Beowulf, A Christmas Carol) as he puts the tech and craftsmanship on display, while the film’s story serves as the second act of the show.
It’s not that the real-life story that the film is based on isn’t interesting enough to hold your attention, but it’s the fact that Zemeckis is clearly more interested in making the film feel larger-than-life and fully immersive without ever feeling like a tired gimmick.
The Walk has some of the best use of IMAX 3D that I’ve ever seen, with complete sequences launching my heartbeat through the roof as I squinted my eyes while Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Philippe Petit almost carelessly looks over the edge of one of the Twin Towers without clenching a muscle.
Zemeckis never lets up on that gut-wrenching feeling and The Walk is so much more engaging because of how he approaches height and the fear of it in the film, while occasionally contrasting that with Petit’s life-long dreams that soar beyond the sky and into the heavens.
Philippe Petit is truly an amazing man that’s accomplished some mighty acts of courage, yet Zemeckis only bothers with showing us his never-say-no attitude and determination through Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s questionable French accent and an array of sometimes-useful supporting cast members.
Ben Kingsley falls flat as one of the film’s key inspirations or at least major factors in Petit performing his crazy act, yet Kingsley does nothing but crack a few jokes.
Zemeckis forces out most of the backstory in exchange for Petit and his crew setting up the performance and then Petit walking across the wire while the entire world watches down below…or maybe just part of New York City, but it definitely feels like the world.
JGL is an incredible actor and has definitely gotten better over the years, but I spent the whole time thinking that he was the wrong choice, with his weird-looking contacts and overly French accent proving to be more of a distraction than anything.
In Looper he managed to blend in well and both look and sound like a younger Bruce Willis, while in The Walk he looks and sounds like a poorly-done Saturday Night Live skit with a dash of goofy and a huge helping of selfish.
He lands most of the silly and fun Petit, but struggles with the more serious stuff. I don’t exactly blame JGL here, because he gives it his all and then some, but perhaps he was the wrong choice from the get-go and no one bothered to tell Zemeckis.
The last twenty minutes of The Walk are a real treat to enjoy. Watching Petit finally accomplish his life-long dream is rewarding and visually stunning. Zemeckis perfectly executes the finale in a way that feels complete and looks downright spectacular, but the feeling does go away.
The Walk is a film that demands to be seen on an IMAX screen in 3D. It truly is an experience of its own that cannot be replicated on a smaller screen or in 2D, which is part of the reason why the film struggles — Zemeckis never captures anything on an emotional level and instead goes for the visuals. The Walk is a beautiful-looking film, but it doesn’t have much of anything else to offer, aside from maybe an excuse to hear JGL pronounce everyday words in a funny French accent.