Tag Archives: Man on Wire

Walk of Fame

The Walk

by George Wolf

If you’ve seen Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning documentary from 2008, you may wonder if The Walk is even necessary (as if Hollywood cares). James Marsh’s look inside the legendary wire walk across the Twin Towers was as poetic as it was thrilling, and it left any other film on the subject a skyscraper-high hill to climb.

The Walk brings together director Robert Zemeckis, star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and some vertigo-inducing wizardry to give the story an newly polished sheen.

Gordon-Levitt is Philippe Petit, the effervescent Frenchman who pulled off the “artistic crime of the century.” In August of 1974, he successfully rigged a wire from the top of one tower to the other and walked across…and back..and back again.

The high whimsy count in the film’s first half could be expected from the director behind Forrest Gump, but it’s also a clear attempt to create a distinct identity for re-telling the tale. Zemeckis, who also co-wrote the script based on Petit’s book, has Gordon-Levitt in character atop the Statue of Liberty, scaling the “fourth wall” and narrating his journey from naive street performer to international sensation.

The overly fantastical narrative loses its charm pretty quickly, never approaching the emotional connection that drove Man on Wire. Gordon-Levitt, though, is a wonderful choice for Petit, with a performance good enough to make those unfamiliar with Petit’s tireless personality think the portrayal is over the top. No, that’s Petit.

The backstory does seems rushed, and when Petit’s team converges on the WTC to put the illegal scheme in motion, you’re not sure he’s earned the right to try it. But if Zemeckis is in a hurry to get Petit out on that wire, you quickly find out why, as questions about the film’s necessity are rebutted once the moment of truth arrives.

Man on Wire could only provide still photos from, as Petit calls it, “the coup,” but The Walk puts you there. Zemeckis and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus) unveil an array of truly wondrous visuals not for the faint of height. As with the recent Everest, this is a film meant to be seen in all its 3D IMAX eye-popping glory

Zemeckis saves any subtlety for where it counts the most, treating the memory of the WTC towers with a welcome, restrained dignity. That, coupled with the breathtaking recreation of a once-in-a-lifetime feat, makes The Walk a worthy trip.






Countdown: Docs for Non-Doc Lovers

It’s Doc Week here in Columbus, that bi-annual festival that caters to the documentary lover in us all. But what of those who don’t care for docs? They’re missing so much! Well, in the interest of sharing the doc love, we’ve put together a list of documentaries bound to entertain even those folks with zero interest in the genre.


5. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

Seth Gordon’s doc on old school video game competitions managed to be the best underdog sports comedy of the year. Wisely, the film doesn’t mock its subjects, which would have created a distance between the participants and the audience. The competition is so fierce and yet disarmingly funny. Full of geekdom, mystery, humanity and the quest to maintain one’s own legend, King of Kong is a miraculous little slice of competitive life.

4. Stories We Tell (2012)

Sarah Polley uses an absolutely fascinating and intensely personal investigation to make some universal points about how we frame our own stories when sharing them with others, whether it’s the way we recount a personal tale or the way a filmmaker manipulates the audience to create the desired tone. Her points are all the more powerful because she chooses to open up such a private story to make them.

3. Man On Wire (2008)

Philippe Petit tight rope walked from one World Trade Center to the other. It became known as the artistic crime of the century, and James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary offers endlessly fascinating tidbits about how he pulled it off. The doc is maddeningly suspenseful, and the sight of this exquisite, joyous lunacy literally attached to the site of such profound tragedy somehow makes it all that much more magical.

2. Murderball (2005)

It’s full contact wheelchair rugby for quadriplegics, and you would get your ass kicked. Murderball is a film that shows no mercy because mercy wouldn’t be accepted anyway, as it follows athletes vying for a spot in Paralympic Games. The competition is intense, the action breathtaking, the story sometimes wickedly funny, and the human experience of it all serves as the doc’s escalated heartbeat. Murderball may very well be the best sports documentary ever made.

1. The Imposter (2012)

Not the best doc on the list, but without question the one that will leave you astounded. A young French drifter claims to be the missing son of a grieving Texas family. Director Bart Layton keeps his film exactly one step ahead of you, and the twists are absolutely impossible to see coming. It’s a jaw dropping true crime story that will leave you amazed.