I’ve been working my way through the movies I didn’t watch last year, and picked up The Walk on impulse from Redbox the other day. I finally found one I wish I’d seen in theatres!
The Walk recounts the story of Philippe Petit, real-life daredevil and stuntman who in 1974 hung a high-wire and walked between the World Trade Towers. Philippe is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (with a slightly awkward French accent, but I adjusted), telling the tale while standing in the Statue of Liberty’s torch. He recounts his days performing stunts on the streets of Paris, of falling in love with a photo of the Towers, and of gathering accomplices to help him achieve his dream of walking the wire between them.
Basically, this is a heist movie. Only instead of a robbery, Philippe is trying to achieve a dream. They have no permit, no permission to do this, and he has to figure out surveillance of the towers, find an inside man, and orchestrate a complicated plan to make all this happen. Because it’s his dream.
Philippe goes up to the roof of the Towers earlier on in the movie, and Philippe as narrator describes it, “But somehow I gather the strength to whisper, whisper so the demons won’t hear. ‘It’s impossible…but I’ll do it.’ ” And that’s really what the whole movie was about—doing the impossible.
It was all pretty good for the first hour or so. Then they got down to the night of actually sneaking into the towers, and considering I knew historically that Philippe and his accomplices succeeded, it was still remarkably tense as they tried to pull it all off. And once Philippe actually gets out on the wire, it was incredibly mesmerizing.
Because we have Philippe narrating, we hear his thoughts as he’s out there. It’s deeply meaningful for him and moving to watch. I looked up photos of the actual stunt, and they seem to have been pretty accurate.
The police, of course, come rushing up to the roof because, as one yells at him, he’s probably breaking about a hundred ordinances. But…he’s on a high-wire. They can’t go after him!
Of course he has to come off the wire eventually…but there’s a happy ending for the stunt, and a poignant ending for the movie. Considering the obvious later history of the World Trade Towers, I wondered how they’d handle the ending—and I think they managed it perfectly.
I wish I’d seen this one in theaters only because the views probably would have been amazing. But even on a smaller screen, it was fun and moving and powerful. And, basically, an inspiring heist movie.
Buy it here: The Walk