Tightrope between the Twin Towers

The Walk

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, James Bade Dale

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts a dubious French accent as Philippe Petit a High Wire Artist who is hell bent on walking across a tightrope between the newly constructed Twin Towers in New York City.

Director of Castaway and Flight, Robert Zemeckis’s film The Walk is both captivating and thrilling as he takes audiences on a journey of Philippe and his outstanding feat of walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers just as they are being completed back in 1974. What is more fascinating is that Zemeckis uses The Walk as a cinematic memorial to the infamous towers which came crashing down in the terrorist attacks in September 2001, without making reference to their eventual downfall twenty seven years later.

Whilst The Walk is set in Paris and New York, Zemeckis does not fall into the trap of ending the film with a line about the devastation of the World Trade Center Towers, but rather uses the film to pay tribute to the fantastic engineering feat of these twin towers during the 1970’s and the inspiration they gave to the crazy, obsessive French man Petit, exuberantly played by Gordon-Levitt who, with the help of a motley crue of accomplices pulls off the illegal stunt of crossing between the iconic skyscrapers one morning in May 1974, despite a multitude of setbacks.

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Unimaginatively titled, The Walk is not a perfect film and the only criticism is that of Petit’s character narrating his story directly to the cinema audience, but the film nevertheless remains light as a crazy and nostalgic look at one man’s determination to follow his dreams, knowing that if he achieves this feat he would become infamous and garner considerable media attention.

Thankfully the rest of the cast are French including Charlotte le Bon as Petit’s patient girlfriend Annie and Clement Sibony, both last seen in the charming film The Hundred Foot Journey as Jean-Louis, Philippe’s photographer friend who is given the task of capturing all of Petit’s tightrope antics including an earlier performance of walking between the towers of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Gordon-Levitt, whose slim build and natural onscreen energy is perfectly cast as the ambitious Philippe Petit and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Life, Gandhi, Sexy Beast) is cast as the Czech highwire artist Papa Rudy who Petit befriends at the Circus to assist him with some much needed acrobatic training.

For all its daring bravado and not to mention his obvious lack of a fear of heights, Petit’s triumph is of making the performance of being a high wire artist truly spectacular. The Walk is a fun-filled captivating story about one man’s ambition to perform the impossible act, caught at a specific moment in history when skyscrapers were still a novelty on any city’s skyline.

 

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