Wednesday, 12 December 2018

High-wire drama is touching the void

HOW do you keep an audience gripped for two hours in a film that centres on

HOW do you keep an audience gripped for two hours in a film that centres on an event that happened more than 40 years ago?

As always, it’s how the director tells that particular moment in history — and it certainly helps if the feat being presented to the audience is so remarkable it can’t fail but to grab their undivided attention.

You would think that in the hands of Robert Zemeckis, the Oscar-winning director behind huge Hollywood hits Forrest Gump and the Back to the Future trilogy, The Walk would be a surefire hit.

Certainly the event in question, which took place in August 1974, is about as daring and gripping as it gets.

Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man — Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt — has or will ever walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Guided by his real-life mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan.

As the director, Zemeckis again uses advanced technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story.

With innovative photorealistic techniques and IMAX 3D wizardry, The Walk is true big-screen cinema — a chance for moviegoers to viscerally experience the feeling of reaching the clouds.

The film is a love letter to Paris and New York City in the Seventies, but most of all, to the towers of the World Trade Center.

While viewers will no doubt be hugely impressed with the world Zemeckis has recreated, particularly when enjoyed in 3D, the rest of the film could leave audiences wanting.

The beauty of both his aforementioned films was that the central protagonists were so likeable and we wanted them to succeed. In this case, I’m not so sure.

Petit, although passionately dedicated to his dream, becomes obsessed with it at all costs — almost to the point of madness.

His determination to ply his artistry his way — and his way only — may come across as sheer arrogance to many, and at times he is a difficult character to like.

Although this does have a tendency to grate, perhaps it could be looked at from another perspective in that it demonstrates the quality of Gordon-Levitt’s performance.

Here is an actor who is rapidly becoming hot property in Hollywood.

The Walk is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse.

Review: David White

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