The Walk

The Walk | An exclusive music editorial video and film review from West Coast Midnight Run starring The Cranberries, Vangelis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clément Sibomy and James Badge Dale.


Bob Zemeckis became most well-known in the business after he pulled The Back to Future mega hit, a science fiction small-town tale that worked the charms of Happy Days and The Twilight Zone into a car-based time travel adventure.  But that was in the past and looking into the future, he now brings us The Walk, a true story of modern day daring and soaring dreams for a continental "In-glitsh-Man in New York" (to paraphrase Sting's hit song) before the long shadow of the tragedy of The New Millennium at The Twin Towers, The Gate to the New World.

We ask you to wait up for a few more days as we put together the movie review and complete our music editorial presentation from West Coast Midnight Run.  In the meantime you are welcome to enjoy another sort of Walk from our Art Deco bi-annual edition which is also about to wrap up.


Up until the first hint of The Walk  movie previews leaked to the press and media publishers I was unaware of Philippe Petit and his daring exploits in crossing the plaza of The Twin Towers on a wire, 1,320 feet above the ground.

In this new movie from Robert Zemeckis, Joseph Gordon Levitt has the title role of our French daredevil, who's always dreamed of making this exploit his career making move, which he performed in 1974, however according to popular folk stories, he conceived of this act at merely the age of 17 (in 1968) while at the dentist office reading about the construction of the Towers in a rural suburb of Paris.  

It was only a year earlier that he had started wire walking.  His father was an army pilot and may have influenced Petit's method and analytical process in creating circus magic that broke new frontiers.  It is rumored Petit spent six years developing an approach to walking the wire between the rooftops of the Twin Towers.

You have to keep in mind this was decades before show biz and a small band of Canadian artisans invented Cirque du Soleil.

Robert Zemeckis, who created his fame with Back to The Future,  a movie that combines small town charm with the thrill-a-chill aspects of The Twilight Zone  and a car-based time-tripping adventure into the Happy Days  era brings extremely honed skills for breathing big screen life into the legend of our street performer.  The film takes its time into bringing audiences up to speed on our hero's background, his earliest efforts as he sets sights on taking the biggest step of his life.  

The Walk  radiates vibes of a modern heist movie, with the vaguest hints of 2001's Heist  (Oscar-winner Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito) and the Ocean Eleven  series, in the sense that the preparations to pull off the illegal and unauthorized walk have a thriller's edge of adventure that builds and slowly torques the tension in the audience to the moment where Petit is at the point of no return.

The style in which the movie portrays the tactics of the crew in stalking and studying the towers' security and operational systems is an unavoidable study in comparison, tugging at the audience relentlessly, with the turn of the millennium stalkers that ensured their demise.

I had screened the 2008 Oscar-winner documentary of Man on Wire, packed with stills interspersed with more recent interviews with Philippe Petit and his accomplices.   Petit may have been coaxed by the director of the documentary, he overcranks and heavily hams his narrative to infuse the interview pieces with emotion and life, which comically reminds me of William Shatner's performances in the 1960s TV series Star Trek.   

Whatever the reasons may have been the documentary garnered an Oscar from The Academy in 2009 (it also scored a BAFTA and Sundance Film Festival awards), it easily makes Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance this year superior as he turns in an enthusiastic but very restrained performance making the Zemeckis narrative a much more intimate and realistic portrait of the man and his love affair with the towers.

The final 30 minutes of the film, combined with dazzling visuals thanks to meticulous CGI and 3D photography, puts the audience in the theater on the wire high above the ground, making them wire walkers with Petit as he lives through each step and misstep while performing his act, repeatedly, for audiences below.  There were reports that early press screenings for this movie resulted in some members making use of barf bags due to the virtuoso performance of the filmmakers. Motion sickness pills may be needed by some viewers with extra sensitivity to heights and walking on wires.

While The Walk  may not make you dizzy as did Vertigo  in the hands of master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, this welcome change of pace in story-telling and format from all of the big budget adventures this year offers the audience an indie, artsy feel of a small intimate movie and yet boasts some of the most dizzying visuals ever to have been conceived for the lens. 

The sheer heights of the towers, the deadly drop to the plaza and the New York skyline are so simply natural elements woven in the storyline that beg for the caliber of cinematography and IMAX 3D visuals in this film.

It's been quoted in the newspapers that historian Lewis Mumford grumbled at the time the Twin Towers were being completed, he believed the architects created a massive eyesore for New York's skyline, that the World Trade Center essentially resembled two gigantic "filing cabinets" that only made the landscape uglier.  

These erstwhile sentiments were echoed in recent interviews of director Zemeckis by Variety Magazine.  Under the watchful gaze of Lady Liberty in the harbor, is it any wonder these footnotes in history parallel those of another iconic landmark at the time of its construction, The Eiffel Tower?

While present lifestyle and news editorials are quick to be more wistful, The Inquirer's headline proclaimed "The Walk Reconstructs Twin Towers During Innocent Times", Philippe Petit's walk was hailed by the New York media in 1974 as a much welcome booster shot of enthusiasm and magic that NYC needed at that time and helped put a finishing touch of human flair, derring-do courage, international fame and vitality on the newly-built commercial center at a time when the economy was faltering and the USA was staring at the prospects of a depression on the heels of the 1973 OPEC Crisis.  Of course the impeachment of Nixon was ongoing during the performance of the walk and the former President resigned the very next day after the historic traverse that fetched the attention of the world.

Zemeckis' work coyly and charmingly reminds the audience of the difference between terrorists and artists, even though on the surface both are up to an illegal act of breaching the security of the facilities and committing a stunt on a global scale.  In one instance the actions of one team brings down the towers with an avalanche of funerals and pain, in the other it makes them climb higher and brighter on the world stage.
The Walk  is as much about the frailty and fragility of the human spirit, its ability to soar with grandiose plans as it is about a tribute to the Twin Towers themselves and the living urban architecture and fabric that bridges both time and space, between two continents.  Yes it may have been the best of times, the worst of times, but The Walk  from Zemeckis and crew puts a golden touch on the memories of a bygone era.

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At that height, one nice gust of wind and little Petit would have lifted off the wire like a kite and made an entirely different kind of history for spectators.

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Senior Editor

Petit's Walk reminds me of the Karate Kid and Mentor Miyagi teaching him to walk down the middle, it's a tightrope if you want to learn Karate fast to stop bullies,  walk on the left or walk on the right squisshh like grapes.