Opening this film with Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) standing atop the Statue of Liberty explaining to us, the audience, what the lure of the twin towers is to him and why it’s the perfect place to ‘hang his wire’. All this is done with Levitt speaking directly to the audience a-la documentary style..but with none of the panache of “Man on a Wire” the documentary film made in 2008 about this same event.
So why you ask did Robert Zemeckis make this dramatized version of events from as it seems fairly pointless. Well that is the question I asked myself while watching throughout the film. While we do get taken into the beginnings of a young Philippe maybe even a little to much so, but we meet Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) as the man who inspired Philippe to begin his career in high-wire walking, how he meets the woman who supports him throughout Annie (Charolotte Le Bon), his main photographer friend Jean Louis (Clement Sibony) along with math whiz/acrophobic Jean Francois (Cesar Domboy) as well as Americans J.P. (James Badge Dale) Albert (Ben Schwartz) and scene stealer insurance/inside man, Barry (Steve Valentine).
Watching them plan the ‘heist’ is fun at best, though a bit long in the tooth for some scenes. It doesn’t build up the tension needed until Philippe actually begins ‘The Walk’ between the towers and it’s truly the main reason to see this film as to witness that spectacle itself which is delivered well with flair & excitement. The swooping and inventive movement of the camera does show exactly how daring this feat really was.
I will add though as well as that part of the film came off, some of the CGI/green screen was so poorly done that for me, it just couldn’t compare to the actual footage shown in the 2008 documentary where you see the real Philippe smiling and pulling off the stunts he did while 1300 feet in the sky.
The performaces will get no awards and it’s a bit frustrating at times to realize they could have used so many amazing although yes, lesser-known, but actual French talent that is there for the picking rather than US actors in the respective lead roles as the accent use can be rather jarring at times. But I get it, you need a name to carry your film. For me and I recommend this to anyone – see ‘Man on a Wire’ as it will serve your needs much better than this version.
The film would have gotten a lot lower grade from me had it not been for the honorable way they show the Towers in the light they did and especially the lovely homage scene at the end.
Screening: Wednesday, October 7,2015 ~ Courtesy of the PGA