The Walk tells the real-life tale of Philippe Petit, a high-wire walker who sets himself increasingly challenging goals, culminating in 1974 with walking across a wire that’s stretched between the top of the North and South towers of the newly-built World Trade Center.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the lead as Petit, narrating the entire movie in flashback whilst stood on and around the flame of the Statue of Liberty (I do hope that’s CGI!), and with an accent that’s a bit dodgy, but no less so than the Czech attempt by Ben Kingsley as his mentor, Papa Rudy (at the time of the cinema release, making this second film in two days where I’d seen Mr Kingsley as a mentor, following The Physician). Still, put that all to one side and you have a biographical film that feels longer than it needs to be at times, but which is also thorough enough so that nothing is missed out. Hence, it’s a thin line to tread between the two (to bring in a tightrope metaphore).
With the dialogue occasionally dipping into French, the film is periodically subtitled but there are times when characters will swap back into English. This seems a bit odd that two people having a conversation don’t permanently stick to one language, but anyway.
All that said, there’s not a whole heap of time traversed in this movie as it begins in 1973 and, before long, there’s a chance meeting with French chanteuse Annie (Charlotte Le Bon – no relation) early on, who supports Philippe in his dream. I would’ve liked things to speed along a bit faster, however, until we get to the point around 90 minutes in when we get to the point that we’ve all come to see. The bit that’s like watching Star Wars and waiting for Luke & co. to take their assault on the Death Star…
(click on the above image for the full-size version)
Well, I say “all”, but in the Odeon Trafford Centre cinema – and this was just 3 days after it was released, and also solely in the IMAX on its first week – there were SEVEN people: 3 couples and me. One of these couples was sat in front of me, just a bit to the right (I took the middle of the back row, of the Premier seats), and I could see they were getting restless. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Just at this precise moment, they upped and left!
And they missed the best part. While there’s great and frequent use of 3D, it’s accompanied by a film that’s fairly stodgy in parts, but what followed was breathtaking, perfect, edge-of-the-seat entertainment. Even if you *hated* the rest, what followed was like when a rollercoaster is going over the top and about to descend. It was amazing and I wish I’d see it on the bigger Manchester Printworks IMAX rather than the Trafford Centre one, but the parking in town is impossible, and I couldn’t have asked for better positioning than where I was sat (M13, was the seat, but the middle of the screen goes between M13 and M14 if you’re being accompanied and want to know the ‘sweet spot’) and also a better lack of other individuals in the cinema, given the amount of promotion this film has had, and also that it was in its first week, and exclusively in IMAX for this week.
However, given that this is one of the few *must-see* films in 3D, along with Life of Pi, Gravity, Prometheus and Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning*, how many will end up now only seeing it in 2D and on DVD, now that it’s out on the home market. They won’t appreciate Zemeckis’ direction whilst shooting with a Deep Vision 3D camera with 6K resolution. That said, it was only after seeing the film that I found out it wasn’t shot in 3D, with the stereoscoping effect conversion in post-production, so this fact comes from IMDB and I’m now questioning that.
(*one of these four is a lie. Can you spot which one?)
At the time I hoped that, based on the auditorium I was in, The Walk wouldn’t bomb just because people couldn’t be bothered to go and see it. As it turned out, while it only had a very modest budget of $35m, it took around $61m worldwide, and since films generally need to take 2-3 times the budget to account for promotion, prior to making a profit, this one hasn’t achieved it. However, DO NOT let that put you off. This film is a must-see in 3D, so I urge you to buy it in 3D if you have that facility. There’s a 2D version of the film in the package and it really does not compare.
And I’m gutted that the special effects didn’t even get a nomination at the Oscars or BAFTAs. I also now need to catch up with Man On Wire, the documentary about Philippe Petit.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and, given that it’s one of the few must-see 3D movies, I watched the last 30 mins while stood right in front of the screen – it’s just got to be done. It’s the closest match you’ll get to being back in the cinema. I watched this on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV.
The sound is in DTS HD MA 5.1 and, for that side of things, it’s generally the score and atmosphere that will draw you in, since it’s not a crash/bang/wallop movie.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted Scenes (5:44): 7 of them here, some as alternate takes. They actually include the additional walk referred to at the end of the film (so I’ll give no spoilers here) and I think that one should’ve been put back into the film.
What I didn’t realise was that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shown actually walking on a board in some cases, but then again, in another extra, he’s shown walking on a wire anyway – albeit with a harness to stop him falling.
- First Steps – Learning to walk the wire (9:11): And learning from the master, Philippe Petit, himself. There are times when it follows the fairly standard fare of clips mixed with chat from Gordon-Levitt and Robert Zemeckis, but with Petit being involved, it makes this more interesting than most such pieces.
- Pillars Of Support (8:27): How to organise getting to the US from France to achieve the feat managed by Petit.
- The Amazing Walk (10:48): Touching upon the original walk, plus the necessity of shooting it as a 3D film, albeit making it in 2D and doing a post-production conversion. I didn’t realise that at the time of watching the movie, although I was aware that JGL wasn’t really walking on a wire that high up off the ground. I guess it shows how far things have come in the world of 3D conversions, as 2012’s The Avengers was very hit and miss, as was last year’s Terminator Genisys. They also used a process called simulcam, where they can see a preview of how it will look in the finished version while they shoot it.
- Previews: The 3D disc just has Hotel Transylvania 2 in 3D, while the 2D disc has it in 2D (1:52), and also includes Pixels (2:27). Not many previews, then.
- Audio descriptive track: Does what it says on the tin.
The menu, surprisingly, is static, but also features a short piece of the main theme. Chapters are slightly more than the usual amount you get on most discs. There are 16, whereas a lot of distributors skimp on a mere 12.
The 3D version also comes complete with a gorgeous 3D-effect lenticular sleeve.
Running time: 123 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: February 1st 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Arabic, Dutch, French, Hindi, Polish
Format: 2.35:1 (Deep Vision (6K))
Disc Format: 2*BD50
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producers: Jack Rapke, Tom Rothman, Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne (based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit)
Music: Alan Silvestri
Philippe Petit: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Annie: Charlotte Le Bon
Papa Rudy: Ben Kingsley
Jeff/Jean-François: César Domboy
Jean-Louis: Clément Sibony
Jean-Pierre: James Badge Dale
Albert: Ben Schwartz
David: Benedict Samuel
Boy Petit: Soleyman Pierini
Guy Tozolli: Mark Camacho
Circus High Wire Performer: Jade Kindar-Martin
Petit’s Father: Patrick Baby
Petit’s Mother: Marie Turgeon
WTC Construction Worker: Guido Grasso Jr
WTC Lobby Guard: Robert D’Alessio
WTC Visitor’s Concierge: Rosa Ruby Kagan
Officer Foley: Mizinga Mwinga
Elevator Operator: Stuart Fink
WTC Rooftop Guard: Doug Price
Mysterious Visitor: Yanik Ethier
Sgt O’Donnell: Vittorio Rossi
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.