30 years ago, director Robert Zemeckis and his writing partner Bob Gale enlightened a generation with their now-classic time travel hit BACK TO THE FUTURE. Released with little hype, it went on to eclipse the double-whammy of Sylvester Stallone’s latest sequels to ROCKY and RAMBO and much was commented on how a pint-sized Canadian actor, well established on American TV in FAMILY TIES, overcame the brawn of the Italian Stallion.
With the likes of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988) and FORREST GUMP (1994), Zemeckis built on the promise he showed from the outset with his entertaining adventure ROMANCING THE STONE (1984) which opened in the Spring of 1984 to stem off competition from that year’s Summer releases.
30 years on, Zemeckis still knows how to cater to the mass audience with his latest offering, THE WALK (Cert. PG. 123 mins), about as smart and savvy a film as you can get. The story has already been told in the wonderful documentary, MAN ON WIRE (2008) in which the real-life Philippe Petit chronicled his successful attempt to cross between the Twin Towers and up to a point, that film did show elements of what he actually did through still photographs. What Zemeckis does is to show the attempt as it happens.
Admittedly, there is an air of dreamy context and wish-fulfillment throughout and indeed, this does recall the fantastic elements that personified the previous examples I have mentioned, but what is really wonderful about THE WALK is the fact that it is the first time in an age where a mix of effects and good story-telling go hand in hand in the context of telling a grounded (and true) story, rather than creating comic book characters and franchise familiarity for the sake of commercial gain. If anybody has experienced the Twin Towers pre-2011 or (more currently) the Skydeck in Chicago, you are probably going to revel or dread the experience of what THE WALK ultimately offers (Admission: I did have rather sweaty palms at the end of this for what was on screen)
Another bonus in the film’s favour is that it is a genuinely accessible family entertainment that doesn’t rely on violence to straddle the young and older teen audience as a Bond or a Marvel offering might – a movie that parents can talk to their children about and not be embarrassed by the violence or mild sexual imagery, as there is none on show in this film, save for one or two kisses between Joseph Gordon Levitt and Charlotte Le Bon as Petit and his girlfriend Annie.
Performance-wise, Ben Kingsley steals the show as Petit’s mentor, Papa Rudy, solid and reliable as always in support.
I have read various reviews and reports on the film and have noted a mix of opinion, but THE WALK is a movie that demands to be seen in an IMAX theatre. If a movie can take you out of yourself and open your eyes to perspectives beyond what you can comprehend, then THE WALK does offer some semblance of enlightenment. Those who suffer from vertigo and fear of heights can at least be assured that they will be in the safe of a movie theatre on solid terra firma, but don’t anticipate that your fears will be eradicated. THE WALK is that convincing an experience in this format.
Suspend your disbelief, but marvel at how it all happened……