Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Walk

*** out of ****

After Robert Zemekis’ welcome return to live-action filmmaking, with 2012’s Flight, he’s back again with a biopic of Philippe Petit, the man who illegally staged one of the most dangerous stunts ever seen. Petit’s tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers was beautifully covered in the 2008 Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire.

Petit’s interviews in that original documentary display all the grandiosity he can afford. This film feels like an extension of that excitement with Joseph Gordon-Levitt taking his place with a semi-convincing French accent and not-so-convincing blue contacts. His backstory here feels like the “fairy tale” Petit said it was in those interviews.

Like Hugo and Life of Pi, this movie is one of those 3D experiences that look too beautiful to be real because it is invested in the spectacle of the dreamer protagonist. Even the acting, drama, and dialogue are so high on their fairy tale simplicity that I’d be tempted to dismiss them if it weren’t for my sense that this PG-rated movie is hoping to entertain kids. There’s a lot of eye-rolling to be expected here, but it is a beautiful experience brought to us by a showman who made a cartoon rabbit part of a live action film noir –and took us back to the future a few times too.

The Walk is no remarkable step for Zemekis, whose best work tends to merge advanced melodrama with high-tech filmmaking. This one reminds me of the motion-capture animated films many film fans were happy he stopped doing, except the players are captured in front of a camera this time.

As I assumed, making a special effects film about such a fantastical real-life event deflates its feeling of legitimacy a little. But my admiration for this film's family movie tone, which is rarely experienced outside of animated films, compels me to recommend it for dreamers young and old, who want a little unchallenging inspiration.   

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