My motivation to watch this film went back and forth, my first reaction was yes because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is undeniably charming and talented, this was supported by the true story it’s based on and the potential visuals; but then I caught some of JGL’s French accent and it became a no, for quite a while but I decided to give it a go anyway. Based on the true life events of Philippe Petit’s walk between the two towers of the World Trade Centre, seemingly impossible but through sheer will and determination, it was achieved and this is what happened in the build up and execution of the act. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and also starring: Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Ben Schwartz, James Badge Dale, Clément Sibony, Steve Valentine, César Domboy and Benedict Samuel.
The immediate reaction to the film is not entirely a positive one, it starts off very much over the top and playful, a throwback to Zemeckis’s days of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s slightly jarring and not as effective at reaching the audience as it’s obviously trying to be. Then there’s the instant recoil from the accent work, Levitt goes overboard and it sounds like anyone’s imitation of what they think French people sound like, then there’s Ben Kingsley attempting to be Czech which again isn’t convincing and it takes a good chunk of time before you adjust to listening to them but if you can push past it, it’s worth it. It’s unfortunate that the worst parts of the film all take place in the first half, the unconvincing and slightly irritating or arrogant, it could have been done better as they are required moments to show how Philippe became a tight-rope walker and how his commitment to it blossomed, necessary but poorly done.
As we move on and his interest/obsession with the World Trade Centre towers becomes the sole focus of the film, navigating how it can be achieved or even if it can, the difficulties and the strategy of finding information, things take a big turn for the better. The style goes from being a dreamer to tense and engrossing because the danger becomes real, it’s no longer just a plan or idea, it’s coming together and though it does still dip back into the more playful side occasionally, it’s still hard to take your eyes off of. This is made much more intense by the fantastic visuals, that if seen in IMAX and you weren’t afraid of heights, you probably will be afterwards; despite being fully aware you’re safe and sound wherever you may be sitting, it’s 100% effective at making you feel nervous and it’s fantastic. The narrative placed throughout the story of Levitt as a post-walk Petit standing on the torch of the Statue of Liberty feels entirely unnecessary, it does try to add an exuberant and maybe even a little brash and mischievous spirit to things but the film is much stronger when it’s more serious and tense.
After watching, it doesn’t feel like my hesitance to watch the film was completely wrong, some parts proved that point exactly, but there were definitely enough positive aspects to make it worth watching. The directorial style is a mix of Zemeckis’s films, it does feel strange for him to have moved from such a heavy film as Flight to The Walk and then to have moved on to Allied, it was almost like some light hearted relief in-between more serious films. Visually it’s almost breathtaking, the story is impossible to believe and yet we know it to be entirely true, it’s hard to watch without constantly thinking how entirely insane it all is but you’ll be glued to the screen by the time Levitt begins his walk as Petit.