I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of the Robert Zemeckis’ films that are currently being showcased at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The retrospective coincides with the release of Zemeckis’ newest film The Walk, which explores Phillippe Petit’s artistic vision and focuses on his infamous tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers. Created in dizzying 3-D with advanced computer graphics, I experienced The Walk with Petit as though I was actually there.
The film gave me a major “aha” moment. I realized that my favorite Zemeckis films, the ones that have resonated for me for years — Contact, Cast Away, Flight and Forrest Gump to name just a few — all examine the complexity of the human spirit. Questions of faith, endurance, and the dialectic between artistic, scientific, and situational genius are offered up alongside the commonalities of our everyday lives. And The Walk is no different.
As I watched the reenactment of Petit’s walk between the towers, I marveled at his heroism. Who needs Marvel comic heroes when our children can see the wonder of human spirit in all its glorious action? If we show them what dreams and the artistry of passion look like in human form, the possibilities are endless.
The Walk also gives us pause to remember the Twin Towers. While architectural critics viewed the buildings as “soulless” steel, Zemeckis transcends and transforms that idea into a beautiful spectacle. It allows us to remember the times before 9/11, and the wildness required of Petit’s team to orchestrate the ‘coup’ of Petit’s walk. There’s a moment in the film where the towers become full of light, and it invites the audience to remember the light of spirit, the light of our own capacity to pursue our passions, and the light of honor and memory for those we lost.
The Walk allows us into Petit’s life as an artist and helps us understand his power and charisma which influenced so many around him. The film is worth watching for all ages, and serves as a testament to Zemeckis’ brilliance as a storyteller and creative visionary.