Every year, there is a spectacle movie whose most salient feature is not its plot or story but its grandeur and the visual extravaganza. Like Gravity and Avatar before it, The Walk targets the viewer’s experience of extreme situations and manages to craftily use technology to elicit the thrill it promises.
The plot is the simple true story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s unbelievable feat of wire walking between the twin towers, and his experiences before it, which led him to attempt the artistic coup.
Although Petit’s achievement is otherworldly, his story is fairly simple and doesn’t need a 123 minute movie. There are a lot of scenes that seem incongruous to the plot and feel like they are just there to push the movie to reach its runtime. The story of the protagonist’s life before New York occupies way too much time and the scenes where he expresses his doubts about the feat and those with his mentor (played by Ben Kingsley) seem overplayed. There are attempts at comedy, with Benedict Samuel playing a delirious pot head, that don’t really work. I felt that the wire walk in the end seemed like it was being embellished for the movie, but it turns out Petit actually performed all those stunts on the wire at that height.
Without a doubt, this movie’s greatest strength is its unbelievably real visual effects. The Towers of the World Trade Center don’t exist anymore but the movie brings them back to life and takes you to the top of it and witness the breathtaking view of New York City. It is so beautiful that it makes the towers almost feel tangible. The 3D is the best I’ve ever seen and it’s not just about the parts where there is wire walking or heights involved. Even the little things like circus juggling and rain drops feel real and palpable. However, the best scenes in the movie are those on the roof of the twin towers. Most of the second half is spent on the roofs prepping for the ultimate walk and involves lot of risky endeavors and although the wire walking was ethereal and beautiful, it is not evoke as much anxiety of falling as the preparation scenes do. Perhaps this was by design. Although there are other movies like Gravity which had really good 3D, none of them made you feel nauseas because of heights. This is a true big-screen movie and deserves to be watched in IMAX 3D. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is certainly the right choice for the protagonist; it’s not just that he looks the part but everything about him right down to his accent, physique and costume just feels impeccable.
This is not a flawless movie and I’m not sure how much one can enjoy watching it a second time. But with pure visual wizardry, Robert Zemeckis and his team ensure that it’s the spectacle that’s worth the price of IMAX 3D. I’m going with an 8/10 for The Walk. Experience it in 3D and on the best screen possible.