'The Walk' Movie Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Takes on Philippe Petit

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on Philippe Petit in a new biopic.

Rated PG

Four out of five stars

Let’s just say, I grossly underestimated the possibilities.

As a matter of record, on Aug. 7, 1974, a week before his 25th birthday, Petit and some “co-conspirators” sneaked up the recently erected towers, worked all night to fashion a tightrope and, at approximately 7 a.m. as the streets below started to fill with people, Petit stepped onto a steel wire one-inch wide and spent the next 45 minutes walking back and forth along the 140-foot length between the twin towers, 110 stories above the asphalt streets below, all without a safety net or harness.

Until we get to the actual walk, the film vacillates between Petit’s consuming passion to accomplish his goal, and the storytelling device of Petit perched on the torch narrating the action, which dampens the tension and undermines the drama. "Man on Wire" does a much better job of building the suspense leading up to the walk. However, it doesn’t really put you on the wire with Petit.

This is the part where I encourage everybody on the planet to see "The Walk." This is also the part where I tell you Zemeckis and Browne get overzealously cute with their script and storytelling. But the combination of their jaw-dropping recreation of the twin towers, Petit’s walk between those towers, and the power of the story itself easily overcomes the cartoonish narrative. And yet "The Walk" is also deeply satisfying, almost like a love story. Very much a love story, in fact -- an inspiring and thrilling love story between a man and two buildings that are, quite literally, the objects of his very particular and unique desire.

Petit’s love and reverence for those towers is palpable, more so to anyone who lived and grew up in the New York City area between 1974 and Sept. 11, 2001. "The Walk," encompassing all the magical elements cinema has to offer, serves as a gorgeous tribute to those buildings loved, admired and missed by so many.