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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 3, 2015

The Walk Review: A Tribute To A French Wire Walker That Pays Homage To The World Trade Center

JOSEPH Gordon Levitt of “500 Days of Summer” and “Inception” gives a very charming performance as Philippe Petit, the daredevil Frenchman who hit the headlines when he crossed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on a tightrope in August of 1974. But the movie works not only because of his endearing performance but also due to the totally engrossing cinematic presentation that Director Robert Zemeckis accomplished in re-creating the true story. Zemeckis is best known for the “Back to the Future” flicks, “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away”, which all had lead characters that are fighters and survivors. Petit the wirewalker is somewhat similar to them in his desire to tackle the impossible.

The story is told by Levitt (in accented English and he also apparently trained well for the physical requirements of his role) while he is on the top of the torch of the Statue of Liberty showing the spectacular World Trade Center Twin Towers and the Manhattan skyline in the background (thanks to digital computer imagery). Philippe breezes through his childhood (told in black and white) and his early fascination with acrobatics and wire walking when he was 8 years old. He finds a mentor in a Czech circus tightrope walker, Papa Rudi (Ben Kingsley, who obviously had fun doing his role).

He’s also a mime, a juggler and a unicyclist who went to Paris to be a street performer. There, he meets a street singer, Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), who becomes his girlfriend and also his partner in crime in what he calls “le coup”, which is his obsession in doing the World Trade Center in New York City. Along the way, he meets other would be accomplices, including Jean Louise (Clement Sibony), a photographer, and Jean Francois (Cesar Domboy), a math whiz. In New York, they meet more friends who help Petit in his mission (James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz and Steve Valentine). Some tension occurs when they don’t agree with each other and a couple of them back out at the last minute. The film somewhat becomes a caper or heist movie at this point.

The actual sequence of Petit accomplishing his ‘coup’ is beautifully staged with much excitement, suspense and some touches of humor, what with security guards and cops contributing to the thrilling sequence. Thanks to impressive modern CGI technology, it truly looks all so real you can even get dizzy with vertigo while watching the screen, especially on IMAX 3D.

Actually, we viewers already know the ending, but still, one can’t help but be affected when Petit starts his walk out into the sky. You completely sympathize with him as everything feels so real and you become afraid that he might plunge down to the streets 110 stories below. Petit manages to hold on and extend his act when the cops come, complete with kneeling and even lying down on the wire, and turn his walk into a memorable work of performance art in itself, aided and abetted by Alan Silvestri’s excellent musical score that even uses Beethoven’s Fur Elise in rolling piano (also prominently used before in “Rosemary’s Baby”.)

In the end, the film is not only a tribute to Petit’s achievement but a bittersweet melancholic homage to the Twin Towers that were demolished by terrorists in 2001. The movie is based on Petit’s own book, “To Reach the Clouds”, and it’s generally conceded that it’s him who taught New Yorkers to love the Twin Towers that were initially regarded as boring boxes on a well known skyline.