Like Everest a few weeks ago, The Walk is the next film up in a long line of prestige pictures for adults that are best viewed on the big screen. Studios seem to want a large topic with good visuals, but still get adults into the seats.

Whether The Walk’s bad performance at the box office is an indication of this film’s lack of interest or whether its due to extraneous factors is yet to be seen. The IMAX-only release through the first week and a half may have dissuaded many people from attending, but was long enough to have interest in the film wane. It also was released at the same time as The Martian, another big-scope picture for adults.

Sadly, the narrative for The Walk is much like its shoddy performance in ticket sales, it just lacks a heart at the center and is really underwhelming, a basic retread of the fantastic Man on Wire documentary without the likability, and then a few high-budget shots of the actual act.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, French accent and all, plays Philippe Petit, a young high-wire artist whose dream is to hang a wire between the freshly built World Trade Center twin towers and walk across them as a way to Christen them for the New York public. Many people say that this act personalized the towers and made them more accessible for the public. Ben Kinglsey plays his mentor, Charlotte LeBon is his girlfriend, and there are several notable supporting performances by people who aid Petit’s operation to sneak to the top of the tower and set up the wire.

Like a few other of Zemeckis’s recent films, The Walk has an issue with spoon feeding the audience information. Not much is left to interpretation, and the film tries to be emotionally manipulative in scenes where it normally would not be necessary. Odd choices that include having Petit narrate from the top of the statue of liberty do not help these issues.

So while not feeling anything for the characters, and while not really enjoying any of the performances, the final high-wire act comes off a bit flat. There are some good scenes, notably the first time he steps out on the tower and stares down, looking at the ground below, and there’s an idea that the film could’ve been more than just an easy retelling of the facts with a few broad shots. It just was never really that exciting, and although JGL was plenty committed to the central role, it never really becomes more than average.

The final shot, which involves a very candid lighting of the twin towers, is the only time where the film progressed beyond what it had set up for itself. The final frame is the first time the film really explicitly says anything about 9-11 and the attacks, but it does permeate the details of the film. As we get further away from the tragedy, we really, really enjoy how thoughtful Zemeckis was in framing the towers and reminding us that they were more than just the tragedy. This alone is enough to give the film a passing grade, and the sorrow that erupts because of what happened gives extra fire to some of the extraordinary visuals.

 

3 stars

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