The Walk is a tribute to the victims who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, and to Philippe Petit, the courageous French man who performed a high-wire walk between them in 1974. The story about the extraordinary feat was previously told in the 2008 documentary ‘Man on Wire’ and has now been made into this 3D film drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit.
The style of the film seems to be partly an imitation of quirky and surreal French cinema, however nothing extra needs to be added to the film to contribute the surrealism. The story is far-fetched enough on its own. The movie focusses briefly on Petit’s early life interests in magic and performing, before moving on to his love of tightrope-walking and his decision to walk between the twin towers at 1,350 feet above the ground, just prior to his twenty-fifth birthday.
Watching the film you could be forgiven for thinking the plan was accomplished in a matter of months, however Petit first had the idea at the age of 18. The planning in reality took 6 years. The fact that the amount of preparation is minimised in the film could be seen as a criticism, along with some dubious French accents and some of the other editing done to the real story (such as Petit cheating on his girlfriend with an American fan being removed), however I feel it would be hard to deny that the end result is a lot of fun, and brings the appropriate level of awe and excitement to the audience. Although I was somewhat disappointed with the 3D element, you do get a strong sense of what it was like for Petit up on the rope, from feeling a kind of spiritual ecstasy to being seriously unnerved.
As a therapist the tightrope walk reminds me of the process in counselling, because like the tightrope walk, therapy also requires a kind of blind trust in a higher power from clients. Submitting to that faith can bring rewarding and life-changing results, as it does for Petit in the film.
As a bereavement counsellor I felt the film also had a message about loss. So often after significant losses in our lives, it can be easy to focus only on the pain and forget all the wonderful experiences that came before. Sometimes it’s the happy memories that precede loss that can help us to recover. The film leaves us with a beautiful memory about the twin towers which, while it won’t replace the memories of human loss and devastation, it does bring about an alternatively joyful connection to them, which feels as though it has some possibility to be healing.
Petit as an individual reminds us to trust in ourselves and our own process of self-actualisation, even if everyone else thinks we don’t know what we are doing! With awareness of our own strengths and limitations and the necessary groundwork, he reminds us of our own human potential and capacity to achieve our greatest and most daring dreams.
The Walk is written by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Sony Pictures, 2015 (PG; 123 minutes).