We get it. For once, a dramatic film not only demands to be shot in stereoscopic 3D, it actually makes the most of the technique and shows how and for what it should be used. But there's a long stretch between using smartly a technique and making a great movie, and The Walk is not a great movie by any measure.
True, only a fraction of those who will see Robert Zemeckis' film have heard of, let alone seen, James Marsh's 2007 documentary Man on Wire. Both films tell exactly the same story: that of French daredevil acrobat Philippe Petit's transcendentally insane feat of laying a wire between the two World Trade Center towers, over 400m in the air, and walk it with no safety net. Both Mr. Marsh's and Mr. Zemeckis' films trade in wide-eyed marvel, in the awareness of one singular, apparently off-centre element can modify completely your view of the world. Mr. Petit's feat of ingenuity is one such poetic gesture that rekindles one's faith in the power of magic and in the greatness of human nature. While Man on Wire explored the poignancy of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with those who lived through it, The Walk is a bowdlerized "novelization" - a lightly fictionalized, narratively compressed take, designed as a technologically peerless thrill ride, but one that, as so often in the work of Mr. Zemeckis, mistakes wonderment and spectacle for grace and emotion.
Though Joseph Gordon-Levitt is pitch perfect as the maniacally, annoyingly irresistible Mr. Petit, the film often confuses cheekiness with intrusiveness, wit with whimsy. The result is a workaday drama about an overachieving egotist that only truly soars in the final half-hour, as Mr. Gordon-Levitt takes on the wire stretched tautly in the Manhattan skies: here, Mr. Zemeckis' state-of-the-art technology truly finds a sense of grace and wonder, fueled by the actor's almost levitating physicality and by the you-are-there immediacy of the pictures. But it's too small a pay-off for the investment asked of the viewer, and it only confirms how overrated the director's filmmaking has become ever since Forrest Gump. The Walk never goes as high as it wants to, and that is a shame.
US, 2015, 123 minutes
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte le Bon, James Badge Dale
Directed by Robert Zemeckis; written by Mr. Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on the memoir To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit; cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (widescreen); music by Alan Silvestri; production designer Naomi Shohan; costume designer Suttirat Larlarb; editor Jeremiah O'Driscoll; effects supervisor Kevin Baillie; produced by Steve Starkey, Mr. Zemeckis and Jack Rapke, for Tristar Pictures and Imagemovers in association with Lstar Capital
Screened October 2nd 2015, NOS Colombo IMAX, Lisbon, distributor press screening