Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Walk ★★★1/2

 Image result for the walk joseph gordon-levitt film stills

    In all honesty, the success of "The Walk," a film that cinematically treats Phillipe Petit's death-defying wire walk, hinges entirely on the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For, any role that requires an actor or actress to speak in a foreign tongue or accent for the duration of the film would surely be designated as difficult, and, to be frank, it should naturally be seen as being of the utmost importance, structurally speaking. (Levitt's venture at a French-American accent is the most pertinent aspect of the equation in this particular instance.)

    And Levitt's portrayal of this young and charismatic Frenchman never disappoints. He is charming, undoubtedly authentic, and he excels--not only in terms of his execution of dialogue--but in his ability to transfix audiences. Of course, much of the latter certainly has more to do with the atmosphere of the moment than any one particular performance (this being in regard to a number of scenes dominated by a tension-filled ambiance); nevertheless, Levitt does hold his own on more than one occasion. As a matter of fact, I've never seen Levitt more comfortable in a portrayal; I guess this is a pleasant ramification of the rather ambitious and dream chasing-centered subject matter, which would make it quite effortless for any actor to evoke the technique of method acting. (You know, because they once dreamed of becoming an actor, and it would undoubtedly give them a chance to rekindle that same previously held sense of ambition on the grandest and most respected of all stages.)

Image result for the walk joseph gordon-levitt film stills

    What Robert Zemeckis has essentially done here is craft a picture that is as moving as it is witty in both tone and personality. Having descended from the Speilberg camp of filmmaking, Zemeckis has provided audiences with a plethora of lovable personas over the last few decades, from the zany Dr. Emmett Brown to such memorable dispositions as Forrest Gump. And yet, there's something downright compelling about the character of Phillipe Petit--a man whose sole aspiration would come to be synonymous with the term death wish in the minds of most sane, rational human beings. Is it because Petit's story actually took place? Perhaps, however, there is no question that Zemeckis aided in this appeal. His execution is flawless as far as on-screen composition is concerned (the director utilizes black and white color photography to perfectly accentuate an endearing exposition, all while never passing up the opportunity to instill a sense of soft lighting in an effort to capitalize on a sensual moment), and the source material really allows Zemeckis to do what he does best: that is, tell a story.

    "The Walk" functions very much like a fairy tale as it follows the events of Petit's early adult life and the key moments leading up to what becomes a climactic display of art and vertigo. (The former of that latter statement being a reference to the actual act of walking the wire, which, let's face it, may just be the most dangerous and beautiful art form to ever exist.) It is a picture that is immersed in human emotion and interest, and, well, it is simply a film built for the IMAX platform. Once Petit (Levitt) steps foot on that wire, prepare to be whisked away to a world filled with wonder and queasiness.                                
    One of my favorite moments in "The Walk" merely involves a chance meeting between Petit and Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), a bilingual French musician who catches the eye of our leading man. After a minor squabble resulting from what seems to be an infringement on Annie's artistic territory, we are presented with a look of outward regard from Levitt and a subsequent eye-line shot that focuses on a fleeing Annie. This scene is accompanied masterfully by a poignant score fashioned by Alan Silvestri, a regular when it comes to the films of Bob Zemeckis. And it is scenes of this nature that evoke the greatest of all cinematic ingredients: Nostalgia. In fact, as a film critic, there is nothing more enjoyable and satisfying than stumbling upon scenes of this stature. It fuels my interest in the medium, and, I think, it makes for good film. There simply need to be more pictures like "The Walk" in Hollywood.          

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