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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Walk (Blu-ray)
The Walk (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // PG // January 5, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $40.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted January 9, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

I was not particularly moved by Robert Zemeckis' The Walk, which earned high praise from a number of critics upon its release last fall. The effects-heavy finale set atop a digital World Trade Center impresses, but the drama falls flat. There is already a documentary about wirewalker Philippe Petit - Man on Wire - that is more dramatically potent than this Hollywood production. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's distractingly cartoonish French accent is a recurring problem, as is the lack of narrative drive in the first hour. The Walk shoots for whimsy but fails to capture the spirit of Petit, who proves quite the character in Man on Wire's interviews and stock footage. If you slog through this film's dull opening act, things improve considerably in the daring climax, but The Walk is nowhere near as compelling as it should have been.

The Walk is a surprising belly-flop, at least financially, for Zemeckis. The film failed to connect with audiences during its initial IMAX-only run, and its expansion into standard theaters underwhelmed, too. The film grossed only $10 million in the United States, a hearty disappointment for the man coming off the well-received Flight. The film's advertising was terrible, a consequence of the tonal inconsistencies within. I think studio heads realized the character building and narrative were heavily flawed and chose to focus on the late-film money shots where Petit bridges the gap between the Twin Towers on a wire instead of building interest in a drama. Most folks I know skipped the movie, accurately predicting that the trailers and TV spots spoil most of suspense.

This iteration of Petit is cocky and often annoying, thanks to Gordon-Levitt's aforementioned accent, and I never felt inspired to join him on his journey to "the coup." This three-act presentation explores Petit's life and work in Paris; the planning and preparation for the big stunt; and, finally, the wire walk itself. The Walk gives Petit little motivation for his desire to cross the expanse between the World Trade Center towers beyond the bragging rights. The real Petit talks about the necessity of taking risks to explore one's passions in Man on Wire, and I believe that man sought to explore the limits of human endurance for wholly decent reasons despite his irreverent exterior. Gordon-Levitt's Petit does not verbalize these desires, and The Walk never dives into the man's psyche. The supporting cast is treated as indiscriminately. Petit's relationship with Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon) barely registers, and neither do his friendships with Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) and Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony). Zemeckis continues to be hit-or-miss with drama. For every rich Forrest Gump or Back to the Future, you get a sterile Beowulf or A Christmas Carol.

Better is the high-altitude finale atop the World Trade Center. It's wonderful to replace recent, horrific images of the crumbling towers with those depicting the structures in happier times. Zemeckis uses extensive special effects to depict an era-appropriate New York City and the towers themselves, and these effects are impressive if implicitly artificial. The film uses quiet suspense atop the wire, and here The Wire is at its best. Gordon-Levitt is not speaking, and instead allows his character to do something incredible, almost unbelievable. The film hardly depicts the gathering crowd below, a decision about which I am torn, but stays focused on its star. Petit's movements here are astonishing, and I only wish The Walk had captured a bit more of this magic.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly free of issues like noise reduction, aliasing and compression artifacts. The film has a slightly flat, soft appearance, which is likely Zemeckis' intent to complement the '70s setting. Fine-object detail is good, as is texture despite the aforementioned softness. Black levels are deep, shadow detail is good, and colors are appropriately saturated. The effects blending excels, which complements the extended climax.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix supports the dialogue-heavy film with crystal clear conversations and wonderful spatial awareness. Environmental effects like wind and street noise are frequent and add to the track's immersive qualities. The music is rich and appropriately layered, and the few action effects are sharp and boisterous, awakening the subwoofer for support. French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs are included, as are a plethora of subtitle options.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc set is packed in an Elite Blu-ray case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Sony provides an UltraViolet HD digital copy. Extras included several Deleted Scenes (5:44 total/HD) and First Steps - Learning to Walk the Wire (9:11/HD), which dives into the world of wire walking. You also get Pillars of Support (8:27/HD), a look at the supporting cast, and The Amazing Walk (10:48/HD), about the film's effects.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Director Robert Zemeckis creates an impressive, effects-heavy finale atop the fallen World Trade Center towers where wirewalker Philippe Petit bridges the gap and achieves the impossible. Unfortunately, the preceding drama is stuck on land and mostly forgettable, lacking the spark of the real Petit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's French accent is distracting, and Zemeckis fumbles the narrative structure. Rent It.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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