No, I’m not coming down with a bad case of the flu.
Rather, I’ve just left a 3D screening of The Walk, the spine-tingling true story of high wire walker Philippe Petit.
Never before have filmic descriptions like “on the edge of your seat”, “taking you to dizzying heights” and “roller coaster ride of emotion” been so apt.
Using the 3D format to its full effect, The Walk traces Petit’s journey from kid watching a circus show to the worldwide phenomenon and extreme adrenaline junkie who walked a high wire between New York’s World Trade Centre towers without a harness.
American actor Joseph Gordon Levitt (The Dark Knight, Inception) expertly tackles the role of Petit, and his nuanced French accent, with an infectious energy and joie de vivre.
A hodge podge cast of French (Charlotte Le Bon), British (Ben Kingsley) and American actors make up Petit’s “accomplices”, a group of fellow dreamers who ditch their daily lives to help him achieve his miraculous stunts.
In a somewhat old-fashioned approach to storytelling, Levitt narrates the film from his perch atop the Statue of Liberty.
It takes a little getting used to but once you’re up to speed his presence is a comforting one – surely this means he survives whatever ridiculous feat he’s undertaking.
The Walk doesn’t shy away from its vertigo-inducing subject matter in the slightest.
Since its release in US cinemas, there have been several reports of audiences spontaneously throwing up from the impressively real special effects.
Reports of guys vomiting in the Alice Tully men’s rm post-The Walk: True. Witnessed it/came close. Bad visual trigger for vertigo sufferers.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) September 27, 2015
“The last 20 minutes of the film I had to look away a couple of times because of the sensation of the height,” one viewer told the NY Post. “I felt a little bit queasy. I felt nervous. It was a tingling sensation and some anxiety.”
While the movie gets off to a fairly slow start, it makes up for it with the anxiety-inducing second half.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), who admitted to wanting to recreate the feeling of vertigo with the camera work, toys with your emotions to the point where you’ll have to stifle screams, yelps and shouts of “make it stop!”.
At more than a few points in the build-up to and execution of the all-important walk I considered doing a walk myself – out of the cinema to kiss the ground.
What keeps you there is the chemistry between the crew of characters surrounding the effervescent Petit. Their belief in the task ahead, their camaraderie and their undying support for their friend are all just as impressive as the feat Petit is attempting.
In amongst it all is a subtle but powerful tribute to the towers themselves – those great symbols of American strength and loss – that manages to be both respectful and reverential.
The Walk, like the stunt it attempts to capture, is quite the feat.