The Walk

26 October 2015 | 10:05 am | Guy Davis

"It's bravura filmmaking, tense and awe-inspiring"

The question is obvious: is there a need for The Walk, which dramatises the lead-up and execution of the high-wire stroll French daredevil Philippe Petit took between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center buildings in 1974, when we have already have the acclaimed, Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire, which told much the same story?

The answer comes in the third act of The Walk, when director Robert Zemeckis uses all the filmmaking skill and technical virtuosity at his command to take the viewer to the edge of the skyscraper and out onto the wire with Petit, played with a showman's brio and artist's arrogance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

It's bravura filmmaking, tense and awe-inspiring, with the director and his star vividly conveying the incredible risk, but also the amazing sense of serenity, satisfaction and fulfilment the act generated.

The 90 minutes or so leading up to it? That's not bad either, although your enjoyment of it may depend on your tolerance for a whimsical, fanciful ooh-la-la take on the tale. Zemeckis is making something of a cross between a fairy tale and a light-hearted heist movie here, with Petit and his co-conspirators in what he calls "the coup" a bunch of impish art anarchists just out to push some boundaries and have a little fun.

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It's as substantial as a souffle for the most part, with little attention paid to Petit's motivations or darker aspects. But it's a tasty one nevertheless, albeit with one with a quietly moving coda that pays loving tribute to the now absent Towers.