The Walk is a visceral cinematic experience that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit with stunningly intense moments of cinematic ingenuity. There are flaws along the way, but the last act of the film is one of the most intense and thrilling sequences in recent memory, and certainly one of the best to grace the silver screen this year. There’s a playfulness to the entire adventure, but there’s also a more dramatic gravity to the experience, as recognized in a tribute to the real life events.
Phillip Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a French performer and daredevil, has grown up with the dream of walking between the greatest heights on the planet Earth. Mocked by his parents and community, Petite seeks mentorship from the veteran circus performer Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) to learn the tricks of the trade, and to prepare for the ultimate task of hanging a rope and walking between the Two Towers in New York City. Traveling across the world to meet his destiny, and assembling a group of coworkers to aid him in his mission, Petite aims to complete an impossible task, and win the hearts of an entire nation.
Robert Zemeckis is a master filmmaker, and The Walk is another example of his visual storytelling. It’s not just the impossible heights that Zemeckis nails, but the vast environments and stunning landscape shots. The scale of the human achievement never fells secondary to the characters doing it, and while there’s an intensity to the entire film, there’s also humor and playfulness along the way, as well as some exciting heist adventure in the pulling off of this incredible achievement. The use of voice overs and third wall breaking, which often feel like a gimmick, are well used throughout the entirety of the film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the best young actors working today, and perfectly captures the character of Phillip Petite. Gordon-Levitt does a good job at capturing the obsessive nature and desire to entertain of Petit, and adds even more intensity to the final act of the film due to the audience investment in the character. Bn Kingsley and James Badge Dale are also good in smaller roles, and Charlotte Le Bon is also strong as the main love interest, and has great chemistry with Gordon-Levitt.
The remaining cast is all strong, and while there are some cartoonish characters in some scenes, specifically the cops and Petite’s assistants, they aren’t too distracting in the long run. The film is well-paced at 123 minutes, and while the final act is undeniably the highlight, it doesn’t drag in other scenes. Some of the comedy hits and misses, but the intricate way in which Zemeckis pulls off the events forgives the film for its shortcoming.
The Walk is exhilarating, stunning in parts, and constantly entertaining, as well as a worthy film in Zemeckis’s catalogue of classics. It’s definitely a fun film about human spirit, but when the films gets into the heart of it’s message it transcends to a more emotional state. Grade: B+