‘The Walk’ offers heightened spectacle

By Bob Bloom

“The Walk” is a dizzying experience, chronicling one man’s obsession with his art on a pair of buildings that reach into the heavens.

The movie, directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, who was the subject of the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary, “Man on Wire.”

On. Aug. 7, 1974, Petit brought Manhattan to a standstill when he illegally performed on a high wire strung between New York’s World Trade Center twin towers.

Petit spent at least an hour on the wire before he walked off and was arrested.

You may consider this description a spoiler, but it’s not, since “The Walk” is told in flashback with a voice-over narration by Gordon-Levitt’s Petit.

The movie dovetails his walk with Petit’s childhood when he becomes obsessed with wire walking. As a young adult, he leaves home for Paris where he becomes a street performer, walking on his wire — strung between trees or whatever he can find — juggling and doing other tricks.

Petit constantly is looking for a high-wire challenge. When he sees a picture of the under-construction twin towers in a Paris newspaper, he believes that the course of his life is set — his destiny is to string his wire and walk between the towers.

The first two thirds of “The Walk” deals with Petit learning and perfecting his art, while gathering people who will help him in his planned “coup,” as he describes his venture.

“The Walk” moves in a straightforward, almost simplistic, manner. Moving the materials he needs for his venture to the roofs of the twin towers plays like a “Mission: Impossible” scenario, complete with disguises and covert surveillance forays.

The movie reaches its zenith when Petit begins his walk. Here is where Zemeckis and his team of special-effects experts dazzle us.

We know that Gordon-Levitt is not really 110 stories off the ground, yet through the magic of green screen and other feats of cinematic legerdemain, we watch in awe as the actor recreates Petit’s marvelous feat.

Even though we know that Petit’s walk was successful, we still cringe as Gordon-Levitt mimics Petit’s performance, including lying down on the wire, while thousands below gasp at the spectacle.

To get the upmost enjoyment from the film, you should see the film in 3-D at an IMAX theater, where, at times, the cinematography makes it seem as if you are on the wire with Petit.

Despite, a couple of outbursts, “The Walk” is a positive and spirited movie that, with a PG rating, you can take youngsters — about 8 or 9 and older — to see.

Similar to a live-action version of a classic Disney animated feature, it entertains while also offering some goose bumps and scares to amaze, not only the younger crowd but adults as well.

“The Walk” has one main flaw; with the exception of Petit, the other characters are merely sketched out; they are more props than people.

That aside, “The Walk” is an exhilarating and breathtaking movie that demonstrates the simple and singular premise that dreams, courage, determination and talent can allow you to soar to the top of the world.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

3 stars out of 4
(PG), language, nudity, dangerous situations, a drug reference

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