Granger on Movies: ‘The Walk’
’Tis the season for vertigo-inducing cinematography: first, “Everest,” now Robert Zemeckis’ chronicle of how 24-year-old French aerialist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) walked across a wire that he and his accomplices strung between the New York’s ill-fated Twin Towers on the morning of Aug. 7, 1974.
Beginning with Petit, standing atop the Statue of Liberty, gazing at the World Trade Center, it traces his early days in Paris, working as an impish street mime/juggler/unicyclist, who first gains attention when he wire-walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Armed with advice from a circus-trained mentor (Ben Kingsley) and the support of his girlfriend (Charlotte Le Bon), Petit arrives to begin the planning and execution of what he calls “the coup,” an illegal caper involving importing suspicious gear, disguises, the logistics of shooting a wire from one tower to another, and details of the feat.
It all leads up to the digitally created, death-defying 140-foot stroll — 1,362 feet above the ground — as Petit crosses between the 110-story buildings eight times over the course of 45 minutes.
Covering the same ground as James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary “Man on a Wire” (2008), based on Petit’s 2002 memoir “To Reach the Clouds,” it’s been whimsically fictionalized with far too much voiceover narration by screenwriter Christopher Browne and director Zemeckis, best known for “Back to the Future” (1996), “Cast Away” (2000) and “Forrest Gump” (2004).
Zemeckis has pioneered the use of computer-generated imagery and performance-capture work, beginning with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) and including “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” (2009).
FYI: If you’re prone to nausea, it might be wise to avoid the 3-D IMAX version. A 2013 study in the on-line journal “PLOS One” found about 55 percent of 497 people watching a 3-D movie reported some physical discomfort; about one in 10 felt queasy. That’s because of the disparity between the distance at which our eyes converge and the distance at which they focus.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Walk” is a dazzling, dizzying 6, a daredevil experience.