“Not only is it rather boring and uneventful, but it is virtually identical to its documentary counterpart.”
Have you ever been recommended a movie by multiple people only to watch it and have no idea what they like about it? That was me when I watched the documentary ‘Man on Wire’ a few years ago. Though I disliked the documentary, I thought the story was intriguing; so when I heard that the story was being made into a film I was pretty hopeful. Unfortunately that hope was destroyed by me actually watching the movie. The Walk is a film directed by Robert Zemeckis about Philippe Petite, a man who successfully (and illegally) set up and preformed on a tightrope in between the Wold Trade Center Towers. The film chronicles Petit’s story all the way from his humble beginnings as a street performer in Paris, France, to him finally doing the impossible.
Backtracking a little bit, I want to talk about what I disliked about Man on Wire. Do you know how sometimes people just come off as assholes? That was the vibe I got from Philippe Petit while watching Man on Wire. The fact that he was so arrogant was really off-putting to me and that, coupled with the fact that the documentary has no tension at all because you already know the outcome, really soured my enjoyment of the film. I was excited when I first heard about The Walk because I assumed that the ever-conceited Petit wouldn’t be talking-down to me throughout the film; I was obviously wrong. As soon as the film started I wanted to turn it off. This might honestly be the highest turn-around out of any film that I watched. The Walk literally opens with Joseph Gordon-Levitt talking at me, pretty much the same thing that I experienced when watching Man on Wire. Not only is the character of Petit really fucking annoying, but you also have Gordon-Levitt’s really jarring french accent to get used to. This constant narration throughout The Walk is why the movie didn’t work for me. First of all, Petit is not a nice character. He is arrogant, he doesn’t care about anyone, and he seemingly talks down to everyone he meets. That’s fine because in a movie you can show the other side of that character and allow the audience to connect with him, but unfortunately you can’t do that when the character is controlling the narrative. Every time Petit would get a moment to become relatable, we would cut to a clip of him standing in front of a CGI cityscape telling us all about how he is great. The entire movie felt like I was being talked at, like I was being told the story instead of actually experiencing it. It was also rather annoying because information would constantly be relayed twice. The narrator Petit would say “I decide to pick August sixth as my day to walk”, and then the film would cut to character Petit saying “I will walk on August sixth”. It was like the editor wanted to fuck with everyone and see if he could get away with it. This happens later in the film as well when a news reporter says “Petit was sentenced by a judge to do another walk, but this time in Central Park for children”. The movie continues on like normal but then narrator Petit comes back and says “The judge made me do another walk in Central Park for children”. It was like I was slowly going insane. Even past all of these really fucking awful decisions, having the movie be narrated be ‘Petit’ makes it absolutely identical to the documentary. The point of a movie is to show you what happened, the point of a documentary is to tell you what happened. When The Walk was being made, someone should have realized that by them having the character of Petit tell you everything, the film is adding nothing more than the documentary did. I mean, the documentary even had reenacted sequences to help the audience visualize what was going on. It is literally the same fucking thing, but this time Robert Zemeckis directed it.
The Walk also had an opportunity to fix the other issue that I had with Man on Wire, and that is the fact that the story itself is fucking boring. I admit, a group of people sneaking into the Twin Towers to set up a tightrope on which another man is going to walk is cool, but the problem is the film isn’t about just that. The film decides that it is best to tell you everything about Philippe Petit who, in my opinion, is not an interesting guy. He saw a tightrope walker when he was a kid and he liked it, so he decided to practice the skill himself. That is literally all you need to know about the character, and yet forty-five minutes is dedicated to his ”life story”. Nobody gives a shit! The interesting part of the film starts about a third of the way through, and that is really the only good part in my opinion. The Walk turns into what is essentially a heist film, with covert operations and team dynamic, and it is wonderful. Why wasn’t the whole movie about that? You could have had the first part of the movie be set-up (instead of cramming the set-up stage into about ten minutes of film), and the second part be execution. You can’t say that you needed to know more about Petit to feel connected to him, because I already pointed out why you failed at that part. When Petit finally gets out on the wire The Walk decides to do what I can only assume is a real-time reenactment of Petit walking across the Twin Towers. If I remember correctly Petit (the real one) was on the wire for about thirty minutes before finally dismounting, and it feels like the movie takes that long as well. I would absolutely love that they did that, had the movie not consisted of some of the worst CGI that I have seen. Not once, even for a second, did I believe that Gordon-Levitt was anywhere but a soundstage. It didn’t even look like the filmmakers got real footage of New York and used that. No, the film made it look like Petit (the fake one) was standing over a city made of Lego and plasticine. Even when they did a (I admit, cool) shot of the camera floating down to the crowd below, they didn’t even fade it into real footage; so it looks like Petit was being watched by a bunch of miniatures. And adding on to the awful CGI, the film seemed like a wast of 3D. Granted, I didn’t watch it in 3D but I can assume what it would have looked like. The only ‘impressive’ parts would have been when Petit was on the wire at the end of the film, so what was the point of the rest of it? In the 3D version did you have narrator Petit come on and say “Please put on your 3D glasses now”? If not, what the fuck else was there to look at in the movie? Was in necessary to see Petit juggle bowling pins in 3D? And even during the wire-walk scene, I already mentioned that the CGI was less-than-stellar. I admit that there were a few scenes that would have looked cool, but I honestly don’t think they were worth sitting there for two hours with 3D glasses on.
Ultimately The Walk is a pretty disappointing movie. Not only is it rather boring and uneventful, but it is virtually identical to its documentary counterpart. Now I’m a fan of neither The Walk or Man on Wire, but if you are interested in the story of Philippe Petit I would recommend watching Man on Wire because at least you get the information straight from the horses mouth (so to speak).
I give The Walk a C