Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Walk (5 Stars)

On 7th August 1974 a man walked on a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center, 1368 feet above the ground. Over a period of 45 minutes he walked backwards and forwards eight times. The question is: was he mad? Probably he was. No man in his right mind would put his life at risk to perform a stunt like that. But he did it, and the world is better for it. He put on a performance that was barely visible to the people standing far below. His friends and co-conspirators had binoculars to watch him, but most of the audience could only see a speck far up in the sky. He saluted the crowds below him, but in truth he wasn't a circus performer who was doing everything to entertain. The picture above, my favourite photograph taken on that day, tells the real story. Look at Philippe Petit's face. He's smiling, almost laughing. This was the crowning accomplishment of his life. He was doing it all for himself. If not one single person had been watching he would still have stepped out onto the wire.

In 2008 an award winning documentary was made about this feat, "Man on Wire". Some people asked why it was necessary to make a biopic about the event only a few years later. The answer is obvious. The records of the famous walk are limited. There are only a few photographs taken from a distance. They don't tell the full story. Look again at the photo above. For all you know Philippe might only have been 20 feet above the ground. The only person who saw what was really happening was Philippe himself.

"The Walk" puts that right. With the magic of computer technology the images are recreated on the screen in front of us. We accompany Philippe on the wire, and it terrifies us. When the film was shown in the cinemas people were throwing up because the scenes were too realistic for them. I feel it too. When I watch the film I feel a knot in my stomach as the camera looks down. I could never do something like that. Philippe was mad. I'm a coward. He's the better man.

Ever since I returned to Germany 18 months ago I've been trying to persuade my ex-wife Brigitte to watch "The Walk". She said it sounded boring. I didn't know how to sell it to her. The best films are often difficult to describe adequately. I almost didn't go to the cinema to see "The Walk" in 2015. I would have missed out. I practically forced Brigitte to sit and watch the film tonight. She's glad that I did.

Brigitte didn't believe that Philippe really lay down on the wire. She said it was just made up to make the film more exciting. Here's the proof.

The special effects of the walk itself are dazzling, but that wouldn't be enough to make it a good film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's cheeky acting makes us adore him from the early scenes. His background on the streets of Paris and his adoration of circus performers draws us in. If you haven't seen "The Walk" yet, what are you waiting for? The Blu-ray disc costs less than £5 from Amazon UK. You'll be enthralled from the first few minutes.

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