As a young boy Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) went to the circus and was captivated by the high-wire act. He then started performing (juggling, walking a tightrope in his yard and on the sidewalks of the city), much to the dismay of his dismissive father.
One day he sneaks into the circus tent when it is empty and climbs up to the high-wire, only to be caught by Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) the leader of the high-wire act. Papa Rudy will become a major influence in his life. In the streets of Paris he notices Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) playing her guitar on the sidewalk for donations. Phillippe begins performing his act and ends up taking Annie’s audience completely away, which she is angry about. This begins a long relationship between the two. Philippe sees a magazine article about the two World Trade Center towers being constructed in New York City, which would be higher than his hometown Eiffel Tower. He gets the crazy idea to string a wire between the two towers and walk it. Philippe and Annie then go to NYC in 1974 and begin putting together their team accomplices and planning the walk.
This film is based on Phillippe’s book To Reach the Clouds, and is directed by Oscar winning (for Forrest Gump) director Robert Zemeckis. The film slowly builds until we see the unbelievable walk by Phillippe, which is captured with some incredible cinematography and CGI (computer generated imagery), which makes one truly grasp the height of the Twin Towers, especially when seen in 3D. In fact, during the film’s New York City premiere the realism of Petit’s walk 1,362 feet in the air caused some viewers to actually throw up from vertigo. Robert Zemeckis responded that, “[The goal] was to evoke the feeling of vertigo. We worked really hard to put the audience up on those towers and on the wire.”
The film is rated PG, somewhat surprisingly since we see Phillippe’s nude back end (though not in a sexual context). There is no adult language, but we do see Phillippe and Annie living together. Gordon-Levitt is outstanding as the 24 year-old Phillipe and Kingsley delivers his usual strong performance. The supporting cast that assists Petit are solid as well. The story is narrated by Phillipe standing at the top of the Statue of Liberty with the Twin Towers in the background. It’s an incredible story, and it’s told well in this film. Note: my wife thought the majority of the movie moved too slowly, so she gave it a two star rating. She also thought the 3D was not worth the extra cost, but it would have been great on IMAX 3D.