|'Gordon-Levitt is an actor increasingly known for fairly unsubtle performances and, as such, he's perfect for showman Petit... if only Zemeckis hadn't layered the film with an equal amount of loudness to complement it.'|
If you've seen The Walk by now, or even its trailer, then you'll be aware that star Joseph Gordon-Levitt speaks with a French accent. Picture, if you will for a second, that your non-French friend turns round and affects a French accent. It's perhaps likely to be done for comedic effect and sound at least a little silly, maybe even pretentious.
Your ability to enjoy The Walk therefore rests for the most part in how soon you can get over JGL's performance, something not generally aided by Robert Zemeckis' direction, which plays up the 'Frenchness' of Philippe Petit (Gordon-Levitt) in a way only an American eye could. Yes, this is a film featuring a mime performance and sundry cavorting around attractive French streets. Gordon-Levitt is an actor increasingly known for fairly unsubtle performances and, as such, he's perfect for showman Petit... if only Zemeckis hadn't layered the film with an equal amount of loudness to complement it. The effect is that Petit's desire to walk between the Twin Towers seems almost frivolous for a time; funny and twee rather than daring.
Though that is a problem with the film, the other major problem in the composition here comes the fact that The Walk is shot in 3D. It's a largely unheralded factor of the 3D fad that shooting a film in this way changes a director's style. Auteur theory becomes less relevant and '3D theory' settles in. There are shots in The Walk, for example, that stand out as unusual; for Zemeckis or anyone else, but because they serve the 3D - zooming into and out of things, whizzing the camera closer than usual to objects - they make the cut. This will be 3D's greatest legacy. In however many years time it takes for us to move on from it you will still be able to look back at a technology which fundamentally imprinted itself on how film's are shot.
All of which says that The Walk has little to offer but, in fact, in amongst some of the obvious missteps and somewhat bizarre presentation, there resides a formulaically fun film, wrestled into a heist-like structure by Zemeckis. JGL's frivolous lead is backed up by people who lend things a bit more heft (notably James Badge Dale, late on) and after the history of Petit is dispensed with and the plan starts to build, The Walk becomes an well-wrangled Thriller.
It also features a bravura sequence involving the execution of the walk itself, which sees the film achieve its payoff where it so easily could have registered a disappointing damp squib. Yes, the pretentiousness of Petit and the treatment of his feat is hard to take sometimes, mainly because it is rammed down your throat from all angles. But when the performer is simply allowed to perform, when Zemeckis gives him attention rather than Attention, the film does find a level of beauty and philosophical splendour that wasn't always apparent in the early running.