Overview: Joseph Gordon-Levitt does his best cartoon French accent in Robert Zemeckis’ biopic about the actual Frenchman who walked across the Twin Towers on a wire. TriStar Pictures; 2015; Rated PG; 123 minutes.
The Walk at War: When The Walk isn’t dealing with a meandering story and awkward narration, the visuals of the actual walk and sights from atop the Twin Towers, it feels like something truly special. Sweeping visuals give an immediacy to the CGI packed finale involving the titular walk. The sound design bellows as the hustle and bustle of New York City rumbles beneath the connective wire between the towers. It’s pure spectacle striving to inspire a sense of wonder instead of grief when we look back at the history of the Twin Towers. With that in mind, know you will not be disappointed in the final act of the movie. That alone is worth the price of admission. Everything else, not so much. As charming as Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as an actor, he is woefully miscast as Phillippe Petit, begging the question of whether it would have been so hard to cast an actor of French descent.
Pretentious Narration: Unfortunately, The Walk is also narrated. Not only does the narration irritate with Gordon-Levitt’s hokey accent, it reiterates what we are already watching on screen. Zemeckis ignores the idea of “less is more,” and decides, “more needs more.” Every moment of narration only serves to reiterate a moment the viewer was being shown. The moment Petit decides to walk between the Twin Towers is immediately followed by a narration saying, “My fate was sealed,” to make sure the audience understands what just happened, in case the scene didn’t spell it out for them clearly. This wouldn’t be too awkward if the film didn’t insist on doing this for every scene, significant or otherwise, just to reiterate how important this endeavor is and how inspirational Phillippe Petit’s high-wire act is.
Saving Grace: The supporting cast fares better. Ben Kingsley is always a welcome presence and his turn here is welcomed as the mentor figure of Petit. I’m not sure who Charlette Le Bon is but if The Walk is any indication, we need her in more movies. She’s not given much to do but her performance is charming and sweet. James Badge Dale proves once again he always deserves more than he’s given, though there was still a healthy amount to do here.
Overall: The Walk is a mixed bag of goods too heavily salted with an unneeded voiceover. It’s always nice to welcome optimism and endurance of the human spirit in the multiplex, but The Walk often seems at war with itself while matching the heights of the Twin Towers with its lofty goals. The final act still contains issues that plague the film beforehand, but it’s a pretty wondrous cinematic moment, faux accent and invasive narration be damned.