Review: The Walk
The 2008 Oscar winner for the Best Documentary (Feature) was Man on Wire by James Marsh. This was the story of Philippe Petit’s daring and illegal work on a high wire strung between the Twin Towers in New York. This documentary tells the riveting tale of a man driven to pull off what he termed “The Coup”. Using first person accounts from Petit and his accomplices, still, amateur film and reenactments we see how a man can be captured by an obsession to his art.
Now Robert Zemeckis with The Walk has turned this story into a narrative drama. And my first reaction was, is this really needed? The documentary is one of my favorite films and is a riveting piece of film making.
But which is the better film? Well for me it is not contest that the Oscar winning documentary is much better than The Walk. That however does not tell the whole story.
First, in this film we get more details on Petit’s early life. How sis he become a performer and wire walker. We learn more about who and what influenced his path to the Twin Towers.
Second, in The Walk, we get Joseph Gordon-Levitt giving a superb performance as Petit. He pulls of the fence accent, and because of his training with Petit himself looks the part. This is important because this film does rest squarely, and solely, on Gordon-Levitt’s shoulders. But is does rest there a lightly and confidently as his first step on the wire.
Lastly, what The Walk does that Man on Wire is to recreate the walk with visual effects that are breath taking. The documentary has black and white still photos of the walk. Robert Zemeckis recreates the walk from so many angles that you can feel that you are there right next to Petit. You might even get a little dizzy as the camera zooms from above Gordon-Levitt on the wire down to the spectators at street level. Even though you know that Petit will not fall, the walk sequence creates wonderful tension that maybe he might.
Of course, Zemeckis is well known for his mastery of visual effects, and a man walking on a wire 1300 feet above the ground is begging for 3D. But as some of you may know I am not a fan of 3D effects, and feel that it does nothing to improve a film and just adds to the price of a ticket. And after seeing this film in 3D I still feel the same.
But, 3D or 2D, the show piece of this film is the walk. It is the only reason you should see this film. My recommendation is that you should see both Man on Wire and The Walk. In the documentary you get the story directly from Petit and his accomplices. In The Walk you will get an incredible recreation of Petit on the wire.