Twin-tower walker takes China’s box of­fice by sur­prise

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XU­FAN

In 1974, French­man Philippe Pe­tit walked il­le­gally on a high wire strung be­tween the twin tow­ers of the World Trade Cen­ter in New York.

Very fewChi­nese back then knew about it. But to­day they are watch­ing The Walk, a Hol­ly­wood film based on the dizzy feat. Go­ing by the money gen­er­ated and on­line re­views, they seem to be en­joy­ing it.

The 2015 film premiered on the Chi­nese main­land on Fri­day and quickly beat do­mes­tic ri­vals to take the se­cond-high­est slot in the Jan­uary box of­fice.

Cbooo.cn, a live box-of­fice tracker, says TheWalk that stars JosephGor­don-Le­vitt in the role of Pe­tit, grossed 52.7 mil­lion yuan ($8 mil­lion) from the Chi­nese box of­fice by Mon­day, fol­low­ing Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, which made 762 mil­lion yuan.

Ma­jor movie-re­view sites in China, such asDoubanand Mtime, gave TheWalk scores around 7 on a scale of 10.

“The last 30-minute walk on the wire, around 400 me­ters above the ground, is both hor­ri­fy­ing and breath­tak­ing,” Huang Yuan­qing, a Bei­jing viewer, said af­ter watch­ing last Thurs­day’s pre­view for me­dia and a lim­ited au­di­ence.

“I had to clench my fists to con­quermy anx­i­ety.”

In­ter­est­ingly, a num­ber of other watch­ers called the biopic drama “more like a hor­ror film”, as the 3-D vis­ual ef­fects are al­most real-life, mak­ing au­di­ences pro­tag­o­nist.

In the film’s most nerve-tin­gling mo­ments, Gor­don-Le­vitt’s Pe­tit re­al­izes his dream of get­ting on the world’s then-tallest build­ings. In stun­ning scenes, he is seen kneel­ing, ly­ing, dodg­ing the po­lice or sim­ply look­ing at crowds on the streets below.

Film critic Zhou Lei likens The Walk to a “love let­ter” ex­changed be­tween the erst­while twin tow­ers, brought down in ter­ror­ist at­tacks in 2001.

But Chi­nese movie­go­ers are un­likely to eas­ily re­late to the film’s Western hu­mor, such as the main char­ac­ter’s awk­ward French ac­cent while speak­ing English, says Zhou.

For most Chi­nese fans, Os­car­win­ning di­rec­tor Robert Ze­meckis’

“walk” with the helm­ing of this film and the pres­ence of Gor­don-Le­vitt are good rea­sons to flock to the cin­e­mas.

Ze­meckis’ rep­u­ta­tion in China can be traced back to For­rest Gump, his 1994 epic that in­flu­enced many Chi­nese.

Alibaba’s founder JackMa, one of China’s tech mag­nates, re­vealed in an ear­lier in­ter­view that For­rest Gump en­cour­aged him to go ahead with his busi­ness pur­suits even in the face of many ob­sta­cles, the Chongqing Evening News re­ports.

The film is said to have also played a sig­nif­i­cant role in his de­ci­sion to in­vest in the film busi­ness.

Gor­don-Le­vitt’s pop­u­lar­ity in China rose in 2010, whenhe acted in the sci-fi thriller, In­cep­tion, which is still among the coun­try’s mostviewed for­eign films.

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