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The Walk (2015)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/5/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/5/2016
Robert Zemeckis has had the kind of career that other directors can only dream of. His career began with two minor hits,Used Cars and Romancing the Stone. But, it then exploded with the Back to the Future trilogy, which had a little film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit? wedged in there. Following this came Forrest Gump and a Best Director Oscar win. Following the release of 2000's Cast Away, Zemeckis took a break from filmmaking and came back with a foree into animation with The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. Zemeckis returned to live action with 2012's Flight, and he continues the comeback with his latest, The Walk. The point of this retrospective is to underline the fact that Zemeckis can choose any project which he wants at this point. So why choose The Walk?
The Walk tells the true story of Phillipe Petit, here played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Growing up in France, from a young age, Petit was fascinated by performing, specifically on the high-wire. He meets a circus owner named Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), who agrees to train him in the art. Petit then moves to Paris, where he gets by as a street-performer and where he meets fellow artist Annie (Charlotte Le Bon). While perusing a magazine, Petit sees an article about a pair of massive skyscrapers which are being constructed in New York City -- The World Trade Center. Inspired, Petit decides that he wants to string a wire between the two buildings and walk it. Taking on Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony) and Jeff (Cesar Domboy) as partners, the group travels to New York to being their mission. But, how can a quartet of French "tourists" infiltrate a highly secure building and pull of a highly illegal stunt?
When I asked why would Zemeckis choose to make The Walk, that was actually a two-part question. The first "why?" refers to the fact that Phillpe Petit historical World Trade Center event was already examined in the 2008 documentary Man on Wire. The movie won an Oscar for Best Documentary, so apparently someone thought that it did a good job of telling the story. No, this isn't the first example of a dramatization examining a person or event which had already been covered in a documentary, but it's rare to get the two films so close together and for the documentary to be so highly regarded.
The second "why?" asks why make this movie. The screenplay be Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on the book To Reach the Clouds by Petit, is long and detailed, and yet, incredibly narrow. The first act does give us details about Petit's childhood, his life in France, and how he got into doing wire-walking, but I still felt that I didn't get to know the character very well, and I knew even less about the supporting characters. The bulk of the two hour movie focuses on the caper, and the actual event itself takes place seemingly in real time in some scenes. However, following the conclusion of the event, the movie simply ends. If ever a story needed a prologue, it was this one. What has Petit been up to in the last 40 years? What was his reaction to the events of September 11, 2001? Even some simple text at the end would have provided a bit of closure.
The problems with the story and the characters aside, Zemeckis is a master of exciting action movies, so surely the movie is entertaining, right? No. Zemeckis has crafted a movie which is oddly devoid of emotion or suspense. The musical cues keep telling us that something moving is happening, but I simply never felt it. The movie wants us to be right there with Petit experiencing the breathtaking event, but it all feels very cold. The "heist" elements of the movie, in which the crew has to sneak into the World Trade Center, is clearly meant to be suspenseful, but I never felt a hint of anxiety, but that didn't stop Zemeckis from stretching out the moments when the group is hiding from security guards.
I have not seen Man on a Wire, so I was actually interested in learning more about Petit's crazy spectacle. And while I feel like I did learn some things (assuming that the movie stuck to the facts), I came away with many more questions. Zemeckis proves that he still has an incredibly eye for visuals and most of the visual effects are seamless, but we don't come away with the joie de vivre that Petit seems to possess.
The Walk always seemed to have red string with it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably because Zemeckis has chosen a grey/blue palette in which reds really jump out, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as we can see textures on objects, and the depth, even in the 2D version, is very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite the unusually low bitrate, we are still treated to nicely detailed surround and stereo effects. These effects become very important during the finale when we get the sense of what it sounded like to be on the roof of the building. This set also includes a Blu-ray 3D which has the film letterboxed at 2.35:1 and contains an MVC 1080p HD transfer that runs at an average of 23/14 Mbps. The image shows an incredible amount of depth, as the foreground and background are truly separate. This looks just like an old View Master slide come to life. The problem is that these objects in the background and foreground are slightly blurry. This doesn't ruin the image, but it makes this hard to watch for long periods. On the plus side, the image is bright and the colors look fine. This Disc contains the same audio track as the Blu-ray Disc.
The Walk Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. "First Steps - Learning to Walk the Wire" (9 minutes) examines the are of wire-walking, but more importantly, it shows Gordon-Levitt training with the real life Philippe Petit learning not only the wire, but magic tricks and juggling as well. "Pillars of Support" (8 minutes) examines the other characters in the film, allowing the actors to discuss their parts and look at how they fit into Philippe's plan. "The Amazing Walk" (11 minutes) takes more a historical perspective view of the story. It's basically a short making-of which offers comments from Zemeckis and Gordon-Levitt, as well as some on-set footage. The Disc contains seven DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. These are all brief and don't contains any new subplots or characters.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long