Polar plunge temperatures kept me from attending a bar stool race. Instead I rented “The Walk.” Set in 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to illegally walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.
Fast forward to 2015 when Robert Zemeckis directs a 3D version of the feat, titled “The Walk” which was previously told in the Oscar winning documentary “Man on a Wire” in 2008.
This movie is a straight by-the-book telling of a very simple story: Ever since he was a boy, Philippe has always been fascinated by the art of tightrope walking. After mastering the art of tightrope walking, Philippe outgrew his small time antics and set his mind on achieve the impossible. Philippe dangerously, and illegally, set his high-wire to walk the massive distance between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This was Philippe Petit’s ultimate dream.
Right from the start, Philippe Petit’s character tells the viewer his own story, with a forced French accent, from his early days as a kid in France and up to a very detailed telling of the event itself. If you’ve seen the documentary or know the story, you won’t find any surprises. His story is benign and could be categorized as something between a comedy and a family movie.
Still, there is nothing special about this movie. I expect a lot more from a director like Robert Zemeckis, who is behind some of the most enjoyable films in history. He’s after all at the heart of “Back to the Future”, though Michael J. Fox should get plenty of credit, and Tom Hanks made “Forrest Gump”. Zemeckis also gave us “The Polar Express”, and now he’s directed one of the most uninspiring films ever made about a bored Paris street performer.
And the narrative style grew old very early on in the movie. The Walk is basically a heist movie, and the heist set up takes up 75% of the film. I could have certainly used less time “in his training” phase, and I’d rather have the actors speak plain English, rather than hearing Philippe’s constant request to speak English for practice since “I’m going to America” line.
Perhaps if I’d seen “The Walk” in 3D I would have been absorbed by the visuals and able to get past the horrible accents and poorly developed characters. “Avatar” soared, even with some of the fantastic creations who came to life, though I knew they were not real at all. I connected with the soul in beings that couldn’t be more different from us, and here I couldn’t seem to penetrate the dullness that surrounds the acting and the story of an egotist and his stunt.
All in all, my feelings on this film were summed up during a moment when Jean-Pierre, one of Philippe’s helpers, asks Annie as she’s peering through a pair of binoculars up at the Towers, “Does he even know you’re here?” Which, I suppose, is better than what I was asking myself, “Why are you still here watching?” Rent “Man on a Wire” for the real story.