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ROBERT ZEMECKIS DIRECTS THE WALK

year: 2015
There's a point in THE WALK, based on an autobiography turned into a popular documentary MAN ON WIRE about tight-rope extraordinaire Philippe Petit, played by a super skinny and hyperactive Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where his group of eclectic cronies... planning to help get a wire across one tower to the other from the newly-constructed New York World Trade Center... frantically discuss how crazy and obsessed Petit has become. And without the main man present, there's a feeling of being stuck in a vacuum... It's as if these side-characters (including a love interest) mean nothing; and frankly, they don't.

For better or worse, WALK is a one man show, and Frenchman Philippe makes plenty of excuses to speak English, much too obviously catering to an American audience, even when in France where his hobby turned vocation begins: reluctantly coached by a moody Ben Kingsley. The language explanations and distracting fourth wall narration aside, this big budget project is filmed with creative precision by director Robert Zemeckis. And yet, by the time the title becomes literal, and the wiry stroll begins high above New York, we're centered so closely on the nervous, balancing Petit, there aren't enough reactions of the people far down below, who, realistically speaking, could only see the walk... followed by some last-minute, stomach-turning tricks... with a pair of binoculars or a high power telescope: they have nose-bleed seats, in reverse.

Everything really comes down to the intensity of Gordon-Levitt, provided a role he can sink his heart, soul, and tons and tons of dialogue into. Unfortunately, the director's energy often goes against that of his leading man: while we know the wire-walk is a really big deal, and a genuinely miraculous feat, there lacks both the awe as a spectator while the 3D (which Zemeckis reels in) isn't very impressive... unless you're afraid of heights. The film does get extremely high in a somewhat suspenseful manner. But we don't come down to Earth enough to fully connect with the importance of being up there – or all the meticulous trouble to pull off the stunt in the first place. Have these ragtag outcasts stealing a cache of penthouse diamonds (or whatever), and there wouldn't be any difference, stylistically, of your typical "impossible caper" motif: think TOWER HEIST with a tightrope.

RATING: **1/2
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