I’ve come close to walking out of a few movies in my life, because they were simply too intense to handle. Jaws, Jurassic Park and The Edge had me so freaked out that I wanted to run for the door. The Walk is the first movie to do so WITHOUT a man-eating creature. Instead, it was a serene stroll between the Twin Towers that had me crawling out of my seat and skin.
The Walk tells the astonishing true story of Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a tightrope walker who strung a wire between the World Trade Center buildings in 1974, then attempted to walk across it. Director Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump, Castaway) recreates this moment with a startling accuracy that will leave most of us shaking and chewing off our fingernails.
The Walk begins in Paris, where young Philippe is a street performer. He steals baguettes, juggles on unicycles and speaks with a heavy accent directly to the camera. It’s all so exceedingly FRENCH, it threatens to derail the movie. This might even be a deal-breaker for some people, who would rather push a mime down some stairs than watch him escape from a box. The Walk picks up pace rapidly once Petit lands in New York City though and starts to collect his “accomplices.” This is when the movie becomes less of a biopic and more of a caper. The crew forms a plan that snowballs until you are quite literally standing on a wire between the Twin Towers. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a movie moment so visceral, SO REAL before in all my life. I actually had to incorporate Lamaze breathing techniques to keep from running for the door. It is beautiful though, and agonizing and absolutely worth the extra money to see it in IMAX 3D.
The Walk is about the audacity and triumphant nature of the human spirit, but it’s really much more than that. With this film, Robert Zemeckis gives us a world where the Twin Towers still stand. He also delivers a glorious and lasting image of those beloved buildings to replace the ones that have haunted us since 2001. It’s a rare and wonderful gift, and one that’s almost as audacious as the walk itself. B+