Should I do it? Should I walk out onto the Robert Zemeckis tightrope between contemplative art and sensationalistic entertainment once again? Most of the time, I go tumbling into a void of clumsy storytelling, shallow philosophizing, and sentimentality. But once in a while, Zemeckis can deliver a charge of ambitious imagination. Let’s see what my go-to critics are saying about The Walk.

Alissa Wilkinson at Christianity Today says:

The way this final act is shot is so viscerally thrilling (my heart was in my throat, even though I knew the story, and it took me a half hour to feel calm after it was over) that it’s worth excusing the film’s deficiencies. But it has them. To wit: it’s narrated by Petit, perched in the Statue of Liberty’s torch, and it’s a little hard to take Gordon-Levitt seriously with his French accent (though it’s not a bad one). Similarly, characters give a few too many Important Speeches About How Important This Dream Is, but it’s all in the rather maudlin vein of “follow your heart” and “follow your dream” and “do this beautiful thing” that could be transplanted into basically any movie.

The film seems more than a little insecure, unwilling to let you feel its awesomeness—it shouldn’t have been—and resorting to telling you, over and over, that this is a very inspirational story and you should be inspired by it and by beauty and dreams and the sky and did we mention beauty?

Ken Morefield at 1 More Film Blog:

The execution of the stunt makes for a fitting climax, but the film doesn’t appear to know what to make of the stunt–an introductory speech by Petit claims that he cannot explain why he did it, only show us how–so the film that precedes that climax too often feels like filler. Occasionally the story brushes up against an interesting detail, but whenever I wanted to learn or hear more, it rushed past potential human drama in order to get to…tepid movie cliches.

Matt Zoller Seitz at writes:

If only Zemeckis had faith in his filmmaking power! What “The Walk” is missing, unfortunately, is an ability to recognize when poetry and mystery are enough and should be left alone to breathe. Here is a movie about a man whose life was defined by a daring, unprecedented and now un-repeatable artistic feat … and who achieved that feat by trusting in his training and bravery and will. But the script, credited to Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, begins diminishing his achievement immediately with tedious chatter, and can’t stop doing it.

Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post says:

Filmgoers lucky enough to have seen James Marsh’s deeply moving 2008 documentary “Man On Wire” may see “The Walk” as that film’s shallower, less elegiac cousin….  Zemeckis has never favored subtlety, and he’s too prone to stridency and obviousness….

But A.O. Scott defends it in The New York Times:

There is always something new under the sun. To stop believing that — to mean it when we say we’ve seen everything — would be to give up on art and surrender to cynicism. “The Walk,” Robert Zemeckis’s painstaking and dazzling cinematic re-creation of Mr. Petit’s feat, stands in passionate opposition to that kind of thinking.

And Jaime Christley at Slant seems favorably inclined toward the film, even though she says that Zemeckis’s

Spielbergian razzamatazz … may test one’s patience with its relentless pop and good cheer. But when the very first shot of the movie is a 3D extreme close-up of Joseph Gordon-Levitt shouting enthusiastically into the camera, you can’t say Zemeckis doesn’t put his cards on the table right from the start.

Since I have very little moviegoing time available right now, I’m knocking this down to a “Maybe” on my priority list. Man on Wire is one of my favorite documentaries, and I’m not sure I want to dilute my experience of that with the apparent mediocrity of this interpretation of the story. But I’ll keep an open mind as more reviews and responses come in.

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