The Walk

(PG) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley

The man who walked on a tight rope between the World Trade Centre towers may not be a familiar to all, but Philippe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) story is legendary. This tight-rope walk is the subject matter of books, films and even TED talks.

The Walk is retold by director and writer Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), a master of all that is new in the realm of CGI technology. Such skills in CGI are a critical component to telling this magical tale, because he must reproduce the height and expanse of Petit’s illegal project that spans between the World Trade Centre.

A rag-tag crew of risk takers help Petit undertake the seemingly impossible project of crossing the void between these man-made giants on a high wire. With the guidance of Petit’s mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), the international crew members get creative, so that Petit can attempt the crossing without any safety nets or harnesses. This true-to-life story provides drama, artistry and humour which builds to the intrigue and tension generated by watching a high-wire performer. The Walk also provides a beautiful testament to The World Trade Centre and ’70s New York City.

The Walk is told in a fairy-tale manner, allowing for mystical-type character development and the necessary magic for a journey of this nature. The narrative provided by Joseph Gordon-Levitt  feels cringe-worthy at first, because of his attempt at the French accent, but becomes appealing and believable, due to the narrator styling. He also delivers a solid performance in the lead role. There may have been other French choices for the role of Petit, but this young actor fills the ballet-like shoes of the aerial performer quite well. The supporting cast rounds out the ensemble by bringing the needed drama and humour. The players in this comical and compelling drama are portrayed in a caricature-type format, which adds to the visual colour to make this a magical kaleidoscope adventure.

But the true brilliance of this film comes from director Robert Zemeckis. He has a masterful ability to provide ground-breaking effects that pull the viewer into the story — without them realising that they are even watching CGI effects. The World Trade Centre towers no longer exist, but Zemeckis’s skill and understanding of the value of good story is so captivating that it pulls you into believing that Gordon-Levitt is actually walking between the towers. Zemeckis portrays Petit’s adventure as a tribute to The World Trade Centre, through great effects and creative direction which provide a beautiful cinematic experience. The Walk is a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.

Philippe Petit is a dynamic character in real life and his story plays well on the big screen. The Walk tells Petit’s bigger-than-life event, but this story and event would not have taken place without a team. A tight-rope walker has all of the crowd’s attention and it seems that the focus of the work is on only one person, but the film shows that all leaders need an effective crew to make things come together.

Each person on Petit’s team has a specific role to play and such is the case with life, too. Based on what we can know of God is that we all have a role to play in this life (see 1 Corinthians 12, for a strong endorsement of this).

Celebrating unique events like we witness in The Walk is understandable but, hopefully, we will not forget the part that each player plays in the story. We all have our place and significance in this life. Each is significant, regardless of how much attention is given to each part.

Leaving the cinema  

It is not a perfect film, but Zemeckis provides an entertaining experience for all ages. Petit’s story is compelling and inspiring, which is captured in this dramatic retelling.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

  1. What is the value of teamwork? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:20-25)
  2. Does the Bible say anything about risk taking? (Proverbs 3:5, Mark 8:36)
  3. Does God care about my dreams? (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 16:3)

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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