Spec­ta­cle soars, sto­ry­line bores

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

Ever since reach­ing the age of about 12, when I rose to the chal­lenges of sec­ondary school, I have suf­fered from a fear of heights.

Why it waited un­til then to sur­face, I have no idea but it’s fair to say con­tem­plat­ing a wee stroll more than 1300 feet off the ground wouldn’t be high on my list of pri­or­i­ties.

As true sto­ries go, though, you don’t get much more dra­matic than French tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s dar­ing high-wire bal­anc­ing act be­tween New York’s World Trade Cen­ter’s twin tow­ers in 1974.

The as­ton­ish­ing tale has al­ready re­ceived the big screen doc­u­men­tary treat­ment in 2008’s ex­cel­lent, Os­car-win­ning Man on Wire, and now Robert Ze­meckis goes down the sort-of­biopic route with Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt star­ring as Petit.

Man on Wire did such a great job of bring­ing Petit’s spec­tac­u­lar stunt into mul­ti­plexes to en­sure The Walk has a job on its hand to prove it’s a worth­while ex­er­cise.

The main selling point of the trail­ers were the dizzy­ing spe­cial ef­fects and Ze­meckis nails the spec­ta­cle with high and low an­gle cam­era shots – made all the more ef­fec­tive by the choice to also re­lease the film in im­mer­sive 3D.

For all of Man on Wire’s jaw-drop­ping still im­ages and footage of Petit’s aerial awe­some­ness, there’s an added thrill to join­ing the French­man out on the wire as he dices with death. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Pole Dar­iusz Wol­ski (Pi­rates of the Caribbean se­ries) is top notch and the sound de­sign adds to the drama with chill­ing mo­ments of still­ness and de­vel­op­ing wind be­fore and dur­ing Petit’s dar­ing sky high es­capade.

Where the movie falls down, how­ever, is when Petit and the cast of sup­port­ing char­ac­ters are at ground level.

Ze­meckis and de­but big-screen scribe Christo­pher Browne adapt Petit’s own book To Reach the Clouds but out­side of the lead­ing man, no-one else is able – or al­lowed – to make much of an im­pres­sion.

That would be fine if Gor­don-Le­vitt put in a soar­ing turn to stand up along­side oth­ers in his im­pres­sive back cat­a­logue but it’s not just the French ac­cent that he strug­gles with.

The bizarre de­ci­sion to sad­dle him with CGI blue eyes when good old-fash­ioned con­tact lenses would surely have done the job is dis­tract­ing and, rather than will­ing his Petit to nail his stunt, you’re not given enough rea­son to care if he de­cides to ac­tu­ally give it a miss.

Fo­cus on Petit’s ear­lier life feels like pad­ding and Ze­meckis should also have left the mo­ments his star talks di­rectly to the cam­era and the clunky nar­ra­tion on the cut­ting room floor.

Per­haps in­evitably, given the re­mark­able true-life set piece at its core, The Walk is a clas­sic case of spec­ta­cle over story that should be seen on as big a screen as pos­si­ble. Did ab­so­lutely noth­ing for my fear of heights, though.

Don’t look down Gor­don-Le­vitt pre­pares for his stunt

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