Release Date(s)2015 (January 5, 2016)
Studio(s)Columbia/TriStar Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
It’s fair to say that if you’re looking for information about Phillip Petit, the death-defying wire walker who walked on a cable strung up between New York City’s World Trade Center towers in 1974, it has been incredibly well-documented. Although it took place nearly 30 years prior, author and illustrator Mordecai Gerstein produced a children’s book about the event in 2003 entitled “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers”. Then, five years later, director James Marsh produced the documentary Man on Wire to much critical praise, winning several awards. Finally, in 2015, Robert Zemeckis decided to take a crack at it with The Walk.
The Walk is a wonderful piece of biographical storytelling. It’s actually a bit more of a fictional take on the event in question, mainly filling in the dramatic story gaps surrounding it. Joseph-Gordon Levitt stars as Phillip Petit with Ben Kingsley as Petit’s mentor Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon as Petit’s girlfriend. Levitt’s Petit narrates his own story, speaking directly to the audience and lending stronger emphasis during important moments in the story. While it plays out as a drama of sorts, it’s also a bit whimsical and not quite as serious as you might expect. It not only tells the story of the feat itself, but it also delves into Petit’s upbringing, what made him become a high wire walker, how he discovered the World Trade Center, all of the people who helped him along the way, and the preparations that were carried out in order to complete what he considered to be his lifelong “coup”.
The real dramatic tension of the movie begins during those aforementioned preparations leading up to the walk, wherein nearly everything that could go wrong does. Almost all of it is well-crafted, but at the same time you never truly feel like the characters are in any real danger as they are often undercut by Petit’s narration, reminding you that it all turned out well. However, all of that is thrown completely out the window once the walk itself begins. I don’t consider myself afraid of heights, per se, but I did feel the ground give way beneath me during the whole sequence. Despite being a composite of live action and visual effects, it all blends together perfectly. It’s a show stopper, in more precise terms. Yet at the same time, it’s also a story with a lot of heart, due in no small part to Levitt’s charming performance. It’s really what drives the movie.
And to be quite honest, I didn’t have all that much interest in seeing this film. Not necessarily because of the subject matter, but because of Robert Zemeckis. I had grown tired of him during the motion capture filmmaking stage of his career, and I had little hope of him returning to live action. He’s always been an interesting filmmaker looking to expand upon the medium, but it seemed as if he had lost his touch somehow. Thankfully, my fears were grounded. If this is the kind of movie that Robert Zemeckis is still capable of making, then by all means, allow him to make it. The Walk is a wonderful movie, full of awe in the kind of way that we don’t often see at the movies anymore. You see the power of moviemaking at work, and The Walk has that kind of power in spades.
I’ll also note that the film was released in theaters in 3D, as well as on home video, but I’ll be taking a look at the regular Blu-ray version today. If you prefer the 3D release, you can pick it up here if you like. Both releases have the same amount of content, just so you know.
The presentation on this Blu-ray is stellar. Shot and transferred digitally, every last drop of fine detail is on full display, giving amazing depth and clarity to all of the well-defined imagery. Colors are quite strong, even through some of the filters used to achieve aesthetic, and black levels are inky deep. Contrast and brightness levels are perfect, and there are no signs of digital augmentation to be found. Like I said, stellar. For the audio, you get a multitude of options including English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD; English 2.0 Descriptive Audio; and French, Spanish, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. The English 5.1 track is a perfectly well-balanced audio presentation that doesn’t feel the need to be overly-assertive. Everything is clear and thoroughly discernible (dialogue, sound effects, and score), yet you’ll also find plenty of envelopment when it comes to the ambience and LFE. None of it is ever over-the-top, but you’re completely immersed. It’s a very strong A/V presentation, overall. There are also quite a number of subtitle options for those who might need them, including English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.
Unfortunately, the extras don’t really match up to the main presentation, but there are some bits that are still definitely worth checking out. There are 7 deleted scenes; the First Steps: Learning to Walk The Wire featurette; the Pillars of Support featurette; The Amazing Walk featurette; a set of previews for other movies; and a paper insert with a Digital HD code.
Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk completely surprised me as a viewer and completely won me over while watching it. It’s not an obtuse movie in any way, but more of a charming and thrilling (dare I say) adventure story about a man who dared to dream something impossible and, eventually, made it happen. It’s somewhat inspirational in that you know you’ve just witnessed somebody doing something extraordinary, both behind and in front of the camera. With the strong presentation found on this Blu-ray release, it’s definitely worth picking up and checking out.
- Tim Salmons