The Walk (2015) – Review

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Bearing the same subject as Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, The Walk is more than just Man on Wire with actors. It’s Robert Zemeckis’ showcase of his own man on wire adorned with groundbreaking CGI and charming performance from the leading actor—although sometimes it gets overshadowed by the acclaimed documentary.

Based on the protagonist’s own book “To Reach the Clouds”, the story of The Walk is narrated by fictional version of Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from the top of Liberty statue. Presented mostly in series of flashback, it’s obviously reconstruction of Philippe’s pinnacle attraction—high-wire walking the immense void between the World Trade Center twin towers in 1974.

Back in his hometown, Paris, young Philippe discovers his dream and his passion—the titular walk I mentioned previously. For that, he starts recruiting accomplices from the street of Paris to the Big Apple. With little more than nerve and blind ambition, Philippe and his unlikely crew stand firms against all odds to execute their ‘coup’ and let the world see. Did they succeed? 

A based-on-true-event movie always has typical issue—presentation. Fortunately, Zemeckis takes an interesting approach to present the notorious action of Philippe Petit. The Walk is presented in a formulaic heist movie, in which Philippe assembles his Ocean Eleven-esque team and execute a completely detailed plan for his attraction. Zemeckis’ keen direction makes this approach works well and makes The Walk quite entertaining. However, one cannot decline the fact that the heist approach is the key factor in Man on Wire. So there’s an issue with originality—proving that The Walk is mostly overshadowed by its documentary predecessor.

On a different note, the recruiting sub-plot is evidently contributing as the weakest point of The Walk. When bouncing from one supporting character to another, there’s always more than enough dose of fortune—makes the plot feels lazy. It also contributes on weighing down the first act—that has already gone slow. Lucky, they save the best for the last.

JGL has the charm to portray the flamboyant Philippe Petit plus his inner quirky. Despite his annoying accent, he’s definitely a perfect choice to emanate Philippe’s zestful personality. There’s no problem with JGL at all, the only problem is his overdramatized Philippe, who sometimes loses grip on convincing the audience of his motives. Other supporting actors delivers effective performance, although I personally get disappointed with Ben Kingsley’s underwhelming, under-class performance as Philippe’s mentor.

The most essential element in The Walk is obviously the groundbreaking CGI. In the beginning, the use of CGI looks like some misfires for me, ’cause sometimes the CGI does look artificial. Yet, when it comes to the climactic attraction, Zemeckis makes use the CGI perfectly to create an acrophobic sensation and exhibit a true cinematic experience you might never seen before. For people who get little nerve when facing height (like me, obviously), The Walk successfully brings the thrill exactly as it should be as if you’re viscerally get drowned into the screen. I swear I recommend watching it in 3D for enhanced experience of real fear of height… then, you know how I love-hate this movie so much.

Although overshadowed by Man on Wire, The Walk still finds prowess in Zemeckis’ showcase of groundbreaking CGI, which viscerally brings audience ‘to reach the clouds’ as well as in JGL’s charming performance as high-wire hero, Philippe Petit. The Walk entertains as much as it impresses, but people will forget it in not so distant future.

The Walk (2015)

Biography, Drama Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Browne based on a book by Philippe Petit Starred by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley Runtime: 123 mins Rated PG

IMDb | Official Site

Meskipun bersubyek sama dengan dokumenter pemenang Oscar, Man on Wire, The Walk bukanlah sekedar Man on Wire dengan aktor. Film ini adalah pameran versi ‘Man on Wire’-nya Robert Zemeckis yang dihiasi dengan CGI yang luar biasa dan penampilan memesona pemeran utamanya—meskipun tidak bisa dipungkiri pengaruh Man on Wire sangat terasa.

Film ini berdasarkan buku ‘To Reach the Clouds’ karya protagonis film ini, Philippe Petit (dalam film diperankan oleh Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Cerita The Walk dinarasikan sendiri oleh Philippe versi fiksi sambil bergaya di puncak patung Liberty. Inti ceritanya adalah flashback tentang penampilan paling fenomenal Philippe—menyeberangi menara kembar WTC dengan seutas kabel tanpa peralatan pengaman.

Dalam flashback diceritakan bahwa untuk mewujudkan mimpinya, Philippe mulai merekrut para ‘kaki tangan’ mulai dari jalanan Paris sampai ke kantor besar di New York. Dengan lebih dari sekedar nyali dan ambisi, Philippe dan krunya menghadapi segala cobaan untuk melakukan ‘kudeta’ mereka. Pertanyaannya: Berhasilkah mereka?

Tentu jawabannya mudah, karena film ini berdasarkan kisah nyata. Tapi justru dari situlah sisi entertaining The Walk ditampilkan. Alih-alih menampilkannya dengan apa adanya, Zemeckis justru menampilkan kisah Philippe dengan pendekatan seperti film-film heist. Philippe mengumpulkan krunya bagaikan ia hendak merampok bank; bahkan eksekusi akhir rencana mereka pun terasa seperti Ocean Eleven. Namun, tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa pendekatan a la film heist ini sudah dilakukan sebelumnya oleh Man on Wire walaupun formatnya berbeda. Nampak sekali The Walk tidak bisa move on dari Man on Wire.

Di sisi lain, sub-plot perekrutan kaki tangan Philippe terasa sangat lemah. Bouncing dari satu tokoh ke tokoh yang lain terasa seperti “terlalu kebetulan”—membuat plotnya terkesan malas. Terlebih, sub-plot ini membuat babak pertama film ini terasa sangat pelan. Selain itu, The Walk juga tidak memaksimalkan kemungkinan permasalahan yang timbul, seperti insiden paku atau kedatangan pria misterius yang seolah hanya dimunculkan sekilas sebagai gimmick. Untungnya, film ini menyimpan atraksi terbesarnya di 1/3 akhir film dengan megah.

JGL tampil memesona sebagai Philippe Petit yang flamboyan. Kecuali aksen palsunya yang menyebalkan, dia adalah pilihan yang sempurna untuk menampilkan energi Philippe yang zestful. Yang jadi masalah, karakter yang ia perankan kadang tak mampu menampilkan motifnya dengan meyakinkan. Pemeran pendukung lainnya tampil efektif meskipun penampilan Ben Kingsley sebagai mentor Philippe cukup mengecewakan—terlalu under-class untuk aktor sepertinya.

Yang paling fenomenal dari The Walk adalah CGI-nya yang mengesankan. Di awal film, CGI-nya memang terasa seperti misfire, gimmick yang tak terlalu memberi sesuatu yang baru untuk ceritanya karena memang terasa artificial dan tidak tepat guna. Namun, ketika memasuki bagian klimaksnya, Zemeckis seolah tahu kapan untuk ‘unleash his beast’. Olahan CGI The Walk berhasil menampilkan efek acrophobia yang cukup membuat orang yang takut ketinggian begidik; Zemeckis memanfaatkan teknologi ini untuk menampilkan phobia yang nyata di layar—yang ironisnya vertikal. Menonton The Walk di layar kecil, apalagi tanpa efek 3D rasanya akan menjadi kesalahan terbesar kalau meman ingin menikmati film ini.

Meskipun tak bisa lepas dari bayang-bayang Man on Wire, The Walk masih mampu menampilkan keahlian Zemeckis—dengan CGI bonanza yang berhasil membawa penontonnya masuk ke dalam layar sekaligus penampilan cemerlang JGL. The Walk sukses menghibur, tapi sepertinya orang akan cepat melupakannya.

The Walk review is written by Paskalis Damar. Review film The Walk (2015) ini diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Indonesia oleh Paskalis Damar.

10 responses

  1. Aw, I didn’t think his accent was annoying. I thought he did a pretty good job. I’m also a shameless JGL fangirl.

    1. Really? I like it better when he speaks French than mixed-up English. Really. He’s doing great though, seems like the character is too easy.

  2. All the reviews I’ve read of this are positive, including this one, so I will see this at some point. I’m just not in a hurry since I’ve already seen Man on Wire. You say it’s not, but I can’t shake the feeling this really is just Man on Wire with actors…plus cgi.

    1. Well, the CGI is what makes it less Man on Wire with actors—especially during the third act. But that’s true if you say we still have enough Man on Wire than this.

  3. Hebat ya kamu bisa write in English and Indonesian so well. Sy udah ngga bisa nulis in Bahasa anymore, I mean to write a compelling review like yours. Mengesankan sekali review ini 😀

    1. Thanks, Ruth 🙂 Having 2 different groups of audience is sometimes kinda crazy. Therefore I wrote them bilingual. Sulit sebenarnya nulis dalam Bahasa, translate it is much easier. Can you imagine translating my own writing? Soooo hilarious. Lol.

  4. I was so against this when it was first announced, because the doc is so great, but I’m really excited for this now!

    1. It’s quite enticing especially the climactic use of CGI. But I think that’s what they sell mostly

  5. […] manages to bring out his craftsmanship in filmmaking. Compared to his latest filmography (say, The Walk), Allied seems more conventional (although it effectively uses CGI to add more dramatic effect […]

  6. […] won Oscars for Best Documentary? He did a Phillipe Petit’s impersonation for Robert Zemeckis in The Walk (2015) following an Oscar winning Man on Wire of the same subject. He did it again—an […]

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