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‘The Walk’ Will Have You ‘Clutching the Armrests’ and 9 Other Gripping Reviews

Critics praise Robert Zemeckis’ visual storytelling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance in the film

Robert Zemeckis‘ “The Walk” takes viewers 1,368 feet above ground to where Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tiptoed a thin wire between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 1974.

And although most audiences already know how the film ends, Zemeckis’ direction, Gordon-Levitt’s performance and the stunning visual effects make you “hold your breath and clutch the armrests when Philippe steps out into the sky.”

That’s what critics are saying about the film that chronicles Petit’s famous walk — which took 45 minutes and eight passes on the morning of Aug. 7 — earning it a solid 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

TheWrap’s film critic Dan Callahan wrote, “‘The Walk'” is that rare movie that might please practically everyone, from viewers just looking for a thrill to those who might enjoy a story that sounds like a tall tale but winds up being discreetly poignant.’

The film costars Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony and Ben Kingsley.

Below are nine other gripping reviews of “The Walk.”

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press:

“‘The Walk’ isn’t nearly as elegant, grand, or informative as James Marsh‘s 2008 documentary masterpiece ‘Man on Wire,’ but that doesn’t make it redundant or unnecessary — ‘The Walk’ serves its cinematic purpose by showing you something that you’ve never seen before, from perspectives that seem as impossible as the stunt itself.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times:

“[Petit’s] coup, recounted in his book ‘To Reach the Clouds’ and in James Marsh‘s excellent documentary ‘Man on Wire,‘ is a cherished and bittersweet part of local history, and Mr. Zemeckis, astonishingly, brings it back into the present tense. Even though the outcome is never in doubt — this may be the most spoiler-proof movie ever made — you can’t help but hold your breath and clutch the armrests when Philippe steps out into the sky. The reality of the moment is so vivid that you may reflexively recoil, as if you risked plunging onto the sidewalk below. And the moment lasts. I had forgotten just how long Mr. Petit stayed up there, stretching a daredevil act into an astonishing and durable work of art.

In paying tribute to that accomplishment, Mr. Zemeckis has also matched it. He has used all his brazenness and skill to make something that, once it leaves the ground, defies not only gravity, but time as well.”

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out:

“There’s no denying ‘The Walk’s’ total command when we’re finally 110 stories high. Here’s when the Zemeckis of ‘Back to the Future’ shows up, marshaling a winning looseness with the actors, vivid 3-D cinematography, a palpable sense of weather and danger (prepare to cringe multiple times) and an emotionally rousing moment when Petit salutes the city below. The real events have been sanitized somewhat — Petit immediately jumped into bed with a random groupie after his ‘coup,’ not a celebratory dinner with dully patient girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) — but ultimately there’s enough daredevil verve here to offset the pedestrian comedy undergirding it.”

Stephen Witty, Newark Star-Ledger:

“Eventually, the walk begins. And Zemeckis puts us right up there with Petit — in 3D and all-encompassing IMAX — as he steps into the clouds. And that, at its best, is what this movie is — not virtual reality but a virtual fantasy, as an artist takes what all art is — a high-wire, high-risk act — and makes that literal.

And then asks us to join him.”

Kevin Lally, Film Journal International:

“Gordon-Levitt, despite his wavering accent, is a very appealing and graceful presence, and it’s clear he put tremendous effort into mastering the art of wire-walking. And French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon (‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’) is charming as Annie, Philippe’s girlfriend and his very first accomplice.

Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend:

“Truly the strongest argument for retelling Petit’s story on the big screen is the spectacular visual flair that Zemeckis brings to the material through his own personal passion regarding the mix of storytelling and advanced technologies. The filmmaker has spent years pushing the boundaries and utilizations of 3D, and ‘The Walk’ represents his greatest work yet in this arena, as the movie is nothing short of a visual spectacle that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.”

Charles Gant, Screen Daily:

“Producer, director and co-writer Zemeckis aims bold and broad, with a genre melder that begins as an antic caper, mutates into a heist thriller, and then finally delivers the visceral and poetic spectacle that is the film’s real USP. Casting choices that nimbly swerve past A-list options feel nicely apt in a film where the towers, after all, are the stars.”

Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net:

“‘The Walk’ could very well have been a disaster especially after the less-than-spectacular opening, but by the end, Robert Zemeckis really nails Petit’s story, not only capturing the technicality of his famous wire walk but also capturing the emotional resonance it had for those who were there, including Petit. It’s ultimately as entertaining and moving as ‘Man on Wire’ only on a far grander scale.”

Scott Mendelson, Forbes:

“Once the day of the big ‘coup’ arrives, the film roars to life accordingly. Once Gordon-Levitt steps out on the wire, well, that’s why I’m giving this movie a ‘fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes instead of a ‘rotten.’ The actual payoff is a captivating, suspenseful, and gloriously engaging reenactment of an impossible feat. Even though we know what did and didn’t happen, it’s still terrifying, and you’ll be holding your breath from beginning to end. It is a truly beautiful and exhilarating bit of filmmaking, and yes it absolutely justifies the IMAX 3D treatment.”

“The Walk” hits theaters this Friday.