×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Walk’ Adds Some Spectacle To This Year’s Oscar Race

It worked for films like 'Avatar,' 'Life of Pi' and 'Gravity.'

Spectacle has gone over well enough at the Oscars in recent years. James Cameron’s “Avatar” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” were big hits with the Academy. Ditto Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.” And you could argue last year’s champ, “Birdman,” was a breed of spectacle, too.

That’s the lineage Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk” is hoping to join after it opens the New York Film Festival tonight (after being delayed a day due to the Pope’s visit). A jaunty, slick, commercial presentation of high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s death-defying stroll between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center in 1974, the film could spark for Academy members looking for something unique in the race this year. That is, unless they feel like they’ve already seen this one before.

The problem “The Walk” faces is the fact that James Marsh’s 2008 documentary “Man on Wire” told this story rather definitively in the eyes of many. Right down to the pulse-pounding thriller elements, it covered — narratively speaking — almost all of the terrain Zemeckis and company do here. What “The Walk” has going for it, though, is an awe-inspiring final chapter that will trigger vertigo in countless viewers as Joseph Gordon-Levitt prances out onto a thin wire stretching to infinity.

Indeed, the entire wire walk sequence is impeccably rendered. The photography, sound, certainly the visual effects — everything comes together for a unique experience that will make the film stand out from other contenders this season. Nothing will have what “The Walk” has to offer, and that’s a commodity this time of year.

But there are other potential caveats. Will the choice to have Gordon-Levitt narrate the film from the torch of the Statue of Liberty, speaking to the audience as if Petit himself were warming up a Central Park crowd, come across as more cheesy than fun? Will his French accent, however accurate to Petit, be distracting? Will the film feel lightweight? Will it be a box office dud (it’s tracking poorly at the moment)? All of that is certainly possible.

One thing I hope to see singled out in reviews is James Badge Dale’s performance as one of Petit’s accomplices. Every time this guy shows up on screen, from TV’s “24” to Zemeckis’ own “Flight” to Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” he just pops. He has charisma to burn and he’s literally becoming, for me, reason enough to buy a ticket. I don’t think there’s enough to work with here to necessarily get him into the supporting actor Oscar conversation, but he is easily one of my favorite elements of the film.

Sony has an interesting awards slate on its hands this year. There was the critical misfire “Ricki and the Flash,” which, you know — never count out Meryl Streep. There is “The Walk,” and there is the big splash still to come: Peter Landesman’s NFL drama “Concussion” with Will Smith. A year after that unfortunate hack situation, and with new honcho Tom Rothman looking to get the prestige gears turning, the studio could go any number of ways in the Oscar race. We’ll find out soon enough if Petit’s harrowing, beautiful act still resonates with voters looking to add a little bit of eye-popping wonder to their ballots.

More Film

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content