Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Just Don't Look Down; Robert Zemeckis's New Movie Takes Terror to New Heights, Rhodri Marsden Reports

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Just Don't Look Down; Robert Zemeckis's New Movie Takes Terror to New Heights, Rhodri Marsden Reports

Article excerpt

It starts with a pain in the soles of my feet.

I've never had a decent explanation as to why this might be, but that's where it starts.

My hands, already clammy, become soaked with sweat. My shoulders end up somewhere around my ears, my face screws up and I peer at the screen through my eyelashes.

I'm not just scared of heights; I'm scared of footage of other people at great heights, and yet I find myself drawn to it.

There's an online video of two television mast workers free-climbing up a 1768-foot tower, which I've watched countless times, along with dozens of YouTube clips of people - predominantly young Russian men, for some reason - messing about at the top of tall buildings. All of them make me wince and go "aagghh".

So when I heard about The Walk, Robert Zemeckis's dramatisation of Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers of the old World Trade Center in New York, I booked a ticket immediately. Apparently there have been reports of vertigo sufferers vomiting at screenings, and for some bizarre reason I wanted a piece of that action.

The story, beautifully told in James Marsh's Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire, is pretty well known. Petit, transfixed by an image of the twin towers that he stumbles across in a French magazine, resolves to pull off the "artistic crime of the century". Thanks to some good planning, good friends, lax security and phenomenal talent, he manages to pull it off, spending 45 minutes balancing a quarter of a mile above the ground while thousands of morning commuters gasp in amazement.

We know he doesn't fall off. We have nothing to worry about. His safety is guaranteed.

And yet The Walk, with its $35m budget, beautiful CGI and extraordinary 3D effects, is all about making us believe that something could go badly wrong, that he could plunge to the ground at any moment. …

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