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
“SELF/LESS” is billed as psychological science fiction thriller with Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley as “Damian” as an extremely wealthy man dying from cancer who finds out about a radical underground medical procedure called “shedding” that can transfer his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man in Ryan Reynolds the younger version of Damian. As with anyone given back a younger self, Younger Damien then proceeds to take full advantage of that situation but with all the knowledge of his older self, to mix it up New Orleans party style. As long as he takes his ‘special’ pills that is.
But as you figure out within the first 15 minutes of the film, all is not as it seems as Reynolds “Younger Damian” starts experiencing flashes of a woman “Madeline” (Natalie Martinez) and a child “Anna” (Jayne-Lynn Kinchen), which leads to him going on an action-fueled rampage to figure out the mystery of who they are and what they lead to – aka the body’s origin – and the underground organization lead by a “Professor Albright” (Matthew Goode) that will kill anyone who tries to find out its secrets.
This film’s only surprise for me was that I thought I was going into a sci-fi type film (the premise seemed quite interesting from the trailers) – was actually a sluggish, very predictable, ‘point/less’ (pun intended) action film. And while I might question why we are led to believe that Ben Kingsley is one of the main attractions of the film, as he’s only there for a very short period in the first act, I will say I did absolutely love the use of Louisiana flare and colour that they squeeze in at every possible moment from jazz bands to Mardi Gras and yes, even chicory coffee!
Beyond that we are left with Michelle Dockery“Claire” (trying her hardest to give a good American accent) as older Damian’s daughter with whom he feels that if given another chance by doing this shedding experiment, he can repair his relationship with her. Add in a supporting cast of older Damien’s best friend “Martin” (Victor Garber) & his wife “Judy” (Melora Hardin) with a few secrets of their own that the younger version will discover and a interchangeable henchmen “Anton 1” (Derek Luke) and “Anton 2” (Brendan McCarthy) and you’ve wrapped up your film in a handshake.
Ben Kingsley as Damian in “Self/less.”
While I was told there has been comparisons with a 1966 John Frankenheimer film called “Seconds” which I’ve not seen, I can only say that SELF/LESS might have tried hard to be this but took a sharp left turn in the wrong direction as it’s more interested in sending Damian on the run with an upset wife and child in tow as he tries to keep them in the dark over what’s really happening..and you can imagine how realistic that all is. (clue: it’s not)
Essentially the story is your basic standard fugitive plotline with any inter-personal connections aspect of it being severely underwritten.
Screening: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at The Grove-Pacific Theatres courtesy of Focus Features & LAFTV NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Friday, July 10th, 2015