I'll break this up into the good/really good, and the not-good. This is an inherently captivating story, and fitting for a cinematic treatment - keep in mind this is the medium that has its roots in figures who did feats of daring-do (think Harold Lloyd going up the building in Safety Last, or any given Buster Keaton flick) - as it revels in spectacle. This is about a man who loves to walk on a wire, and to take it into an artistic plane; it's not simply about defying physical odds (though I'm sure that's there, it has to be for a stuntman, which is what he is technically speaking), but about performance. He is basically an outcast clown, as he has the opportunity in this story to join a circus with a solid trainer (Ben Kingsley is the French/Czech mentor) and instead chooses his own path, and somehow the World Trade buildings catch his attention: so high off the ground, at a place where one can cross if they so do try.
This story and this character, sometimes assholish, sometimes utterly whimsical and very, very French, is hard to resist if one is looking for a spectacle that prizes the simple but inherently thrilling sight of a man walking on a wire. It's also about in an absorbing, creative way the process to how Philippe learns how to trust the wire he walks on, learn when it works or doesn't, and how to concentrate like some kind of Zen master. It's nothing short of fascinating and leads up to a performance from Levitt as this man that's as funny as it is awe-inspiring (watch as he keeps walking, and walking, and going back again when he could stop, perhaps just to see if he can really do it). And the supporting cast is game, and Alan Silvestri's score does a good (if not all great) job of adding heft and dimension to the scenes that need them, including some Beethoven's 5th in the climactic walk itself. So much is excellent with the film that... it's a shame that there's a fatal flaw, so fatal that it almost makes me hesitant to recommend the film at all: narration. Useless goddamn narration.
|The screenwriters walking the tightrope of my patience... and they FALL OFF!|
Philippe is not like that - many of his thought and such are at best unnecessary and at worse make him a bore of an 'artist', to a pretentious degree, and at absolute best maybe 5% of the narration gives us some character we wouldn't see or get otherwise from the actor. We should be able to see, and often DO anyway, on the face of Levitt what he's thinking or feeling as he does this or that, and can see well enough what other characters are doing like Kingsley's guy. Narration is difficult to do in any movie, but here it's so terrible as to make one pine for the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, or Luke Wilson in Middle Men.
Perhaps if one can block out that side of the movie, The Walk will be a blast for most open audiences. Again, the basic story of what this man did in 1974, what lead up to it and the little details leading up to the "steal", makes for a core plot that is fantastic and carries that true-but-escapist flair we like to go to big movies like this for. On the one hand the movie has a different take on how to achieve fame than we get to see in, say, the average sports movie, and yet it's also not a movie that uses heights to address peril in the way we usually see, and it's refreshing, not to mention how committed Levitt is to the role (as are the supporting actors, albeit a couple of 'types' really do stick out). On the other hand, when you have your main character telling you things that not only don't need to be said but are already SHOWN, it mucks with the cinematic form. It's A-grade filmmaking with a C minus grade script.