Sep

30

 This strange, ancient mariner guy shuffles over to us as we stand, 8:30 pm, in the short but growing queue outside Alice Tully Hall, where the movie will have its world premier at the 53rd Lincoln Center Film Festival. His hair flyaway, his body flapped in summer wear too light for the evening chill in the early autumn air; his skinny height curved in a cautious concave half-parenthesis.

"What movie?" He demands.

We tell him, "The Walk."

"Great special effects, average story…" he mumbles, wandering off uptown. We yell after him: "Have you already seen the film?!" He doesn't turn back. He's off to other adventures, the albatross having evidently flown from his back.

When we get to the auditorium, seated very close to the stage where a moderator introduces director Zemeckis and a dozen of the producers, photographers and lighting geniuses that created a 3D worth the time and effort it takes.

Behind us, Philippe Petit grins from a balcony in a floodlight illuminating his pixie genial face and those of stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the piquant female lead, delightfully named Charlotte Le Bon. From 'way up front, we can't see if co-star Ben Kingsley is also waving down at us all; the angle is wrong. The vast 2,000-person audience smiles and claps, delighted with our privilege at seeing the real deal, the actual tightrope walker, himself.

We weren't prepared for the gripping suspense of the story, as Petit/Gordon-Levitt goes through an amazing series of 'wire-walks' in his native France, sneaking into closed-for-the-night circuses, entertaining passers-by on the streets of Paris. Neither were we prepared for the spectacular and, frankly, eerie special effects of the film that spookily recreates the World Trade Center, up-close, constant, right there in front of you.

We know about blue-screen and all, but this work is altogether dizzying with verisimilitude.

The big shocker is that this meticulous planning of a caper plays like a heist, and we are along for the prep, the setups, the disappointments, the last minute reprieves, the heart-in-your-throat anxiety—will it work?

Hate to say it, but the Petit-gathered "accomplices" that Petit/Gordon-Levitt recruits to traverse the abyss of the 110-storey-tall towers gathers undeniable force, aided by the masterful stars and the outrageous effects that create both the height and the depth of the now-demolished Twin Towers. There is compelling movie-making here, as the plan to wire-walk between the buildings is, of course, illegal, daunting, unheard of. Crazy, sort of. You really can't figure out why anyone would do such a thing, even if their lifelong love is walking on wires without a safety belt—and without even the suggestion of pay.

Don't know if others felt as unnerved by seeing the towers in the glimmering distance and immediately in our faces, remembering that they are no more.

Of course there is no mention of the coming destruction of 9/11, as this was all done in the planks and wheelbarrow days of the WTC construction effort. Back in 1973 and '74, before the concept of al Qaeda was even a speck in the eye of Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld or George W. Bush.

Not a swear word to be found, nor even a teeny sex scene. (Two chaste kisses, okay.) The focus is die-straight. And despite our misgivings about the tragic future of the vaulting towers, It elicited round after round of applause at the final shot. There are a few out of chronology fails we caught, but most people will miss them, or won't mind. Even the doubters, like us, were wowed by the effort, the acting, the filming, the suspense, the dizzying strength of the effective and powerful 3D, which really makes you jump, cynical as you think you are.

Even kids can appreciate this goal-focused tale—and how often can you say that about adult films nowadays?

And "average"? This is no average walk in the park.

Jim Sogi writes: 

In the 70s I was a delivery boy for my father's Wall street law firm. One of my deliveries was to the lower floor of the still under construction World Trade Center towers. I thought while I was there I'd punch the high buttons on the elevator. When I stepped out, there were no windows up a 100 floors and the wind was whistling through. On that bright summer day I could see to the ocean and the mid west, almost to California, or so it seemed.

Russ Sears writes: 

Mr. Sogi's story, the review of the movie the Walk and the conquest of Mount Everest by Mallory all remind me of the days I would go out on a early Sunday morning run going over a marathon distance at a pace that wins most amateur marathons. There were plenty of memorable sights a few wild adventures and plenty of solitude with nature outside and within me. But the reason I did it for as long as I could was a slight variation to Mallory's supposed quote, "because it's there"…. No it was "because I can". Despite what one might feel about a deity or nature, this time spent experiencing my world on the edge of what's humanly possible, assures me that conscience experience is at the heart of existence. Perhaps through quantum mechanics this connection can be quantified. 


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