Robert Zemeckis has managed to sort of bulldog his way through the lingering memory of some of his awful films based on the fact that he made Back to the Future and Forrest Gump. That said, Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like he got yanked directly out of a Pepe le Pew bio-pic and ya’ll know how much I hate stereotypical French squirrels.
Robert Zemeckis is one of the last, real, legitimate “filmmakers.” And I don’t mean that in the sense that we’re plowing into an age where the bevy of very talented directors aren’t making fantastic films, because we aren’t, and, well, they are. It’s more that Zemeckis is still of the mind that films don’t need to be overly serious or subdued or not bursting at the seams with visual fireworks and, most importantly, fun. The Walk tells the story of Philipe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the Frenchmen who strung a cable between the World Trade Towers in the 1970s and then, well, walked across it. There could be a version of this film that focused on the more serious aspects of Petit – his unstoppable drive, his dismissal of friends of family in the quest for his goal, etc. – but Zemeckis isn’t making that film. Instead, he’s making a film that is one part bio-pic (the most lagging part of the film) and nine parts exhilarating pseudo-heist film. And man does he pull out all the stops, for better or worse. This is a FILM in big bold letters. The type of movie you shouldn’t, hopefully won’t be allowed to watch on some dinky laptop screen while your significant other snores through her mouthguard next to you. This is a film that needs to be watched on the hugest, most epic IMAX screen you can find, one so large that every time JGL’s character steps onto a thousand foot high rope, your stomach beats a hasty retreat into your throat. It’s a big, bold, visually captivating film – you know, like they used to make – that doesn’t seem to mind toeing the line of grating theatricality at times. Because it certainly does. The film is bookended, and cut through, with this sort of film-length monologue given by Petit (while standing on a CG-Statue of Liberty) and though JGL does a fine job of capturing the many facets of this mime-like, thrill-seeking, man-boy, it just feels like high school theater. Add to this Zemeckis’ decision to overlay every important scene with JGL’s description of not only the events of the scene, but his roiling emotions, and the shine of Zemeckis in full Hollywood mode can dull a bit. That said, The Walk is a film that will win you over. It jubilantly embraces the beauty of cinema as an engaging, whole-hearted medium, and if you, uh, walk out of the film without a warm shine of enjoyment, well, go back to watching Mumblecore flicks.
JGL’s performance as Philipe Petit is his star-making role. That is all.