The Walk Review: A Quintessential New York Movie Made for Everyone

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“Peaceful” is a word Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) uses to describe New York City as he pauses to admire the view in The Walk‘s most breathtaking scene. He has the best view anyone has ever had of the city, and his description poses him as someone truly in love with this metropolis. Only those who’ve developed a personal relationship with New York would ever think of calling it “peaceful,” whether it be scraping the clouds on a high wire between the Twin Towers or maneuvering the bustling streets.

The Walk gets the idea of New York perfectly. Philippe, who starts out juggling and walking ropes in the streets of Paris, calls himself an artist. And where does a struggling artist go to succeed? Once he lays his eyes on the World Trade Center in a magazine, there’s no going back for him.

Right from the starts, Robert Zemeckis imbeds the film with a light-hearted, whimsical tone. He dodges cliches and sappiness where he can, but sometimes trips over himself in trying to do so. The first hour or so doesn’t have the making of a great film, which just makes it more stirring when it sweeps you off your feet and becomes one. But first, Philippe has to fall, get back up, and meet the woman of his dreams. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s accent will win you in some scenes and lose you in others, but his upbeat declarations and arrogant smirk will charm you into loving Philippe long before he stares at the city he’s about to conquer.

As for Zemeckis, he never falls into the pretension of an artist comparing himself to another artist. This is Philippe’s show, with the director just hear to bring it to you in the most stylish and awe-inspiring way possible (for once, you won’t be wasting your money on the extra money for an IMAX 3D ticket).

And once he steps out on that wire, The Walk instantly becomes the most engaging effects-heavy film of the year. The climax is unspeakably brilliant, shattering any expectation of what this film could have been. The cliches in the first half suddenly become nitpicks.

So throw away your cynicism and let this thing wash over you. The film’s positive energy and jaw-dropping imagery will make it a hit people of all ages can enjoy. And for anyone that’s ever romanticized New York, past and present, I dare you to try and keep your eyes dry at the closing shot. This film is a reminder that the unbelievable can be on a canvas, a stage, a screen, or even a wire hanging between the world’s two tallest buildings. All you have to do is look up and take notice. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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