The Walk Blu-ray Review
It's an impressive disc but is your display big enough?
You may already be familiar with the story of Philippe Petit thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire.That film told the incredible true story of how the high-wire artist conceived, planned and pulled off his tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The original documentary plays almost like a heist movie except that the only thing Petit takes away is the viewers’ breath as they see him suspended 400 metres off the ground with absolutely no safety harness. The documentary is all the more poignant because of the ultimate fate of those particular buildings and, like any story related to the twin towers, it exists in the shadow of the terrible events of 9/11. In The Walk the filmmakers never shy away from this, ending the film with a moving fade out of the towers themselves.The Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis recreates those remarkable events in his latest film, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit - although the real stars are undoubtedly the digitally recreated twin towers. As you would expect from a ground-breaking director like Zemeckis, the film is a technological tour de force, so much so that the vertigo-inducing final twenty minutes rather overshadows the rest of the film. Petit’s tale is fascinating but much of The Walk recreates events that were better covered in the documentary, so the film ultimately is about putting the viewer up on that high-wire with the driven (some might say crazy) Frenchman. Ultimately it works, especially in 3D, but the bigger the screen the better.
Picture QualityThe 3D Blu-ray release of The Walk arrives in a two disc set that includes the 2D version on the first disc and the 3D version on the second disc, along with an HD digital copy. The disc is region free and presents the film in its correct theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 at 1080p24 using the AVC codec for the 2D version and the MVC codec for the 3D version.
The film was shot digitally at a resolution of 6K but the digital intermediate was finished at a resolution of 2K and it was filmed in 2D and then converted into 3D in post-production. This was done to make it easier for director Robert Zemeckis to shoot the action but the film was always conceived as a 3D experience and given that so much of the action is computer generated it wouldn't have made a big difference, even if the filmmakers had used 3D cameras.
Whether it's in 2D or 3D the transfer is nothing short of perfect but for the latter to really work you need a projector.
In terms of picture quality, The Walk is absolutely flawless regardless of whether you choose the 2D or 3D version. The digital nature of the film's photography means that the source is pristine and the level of detail is astonishing. The combination of practical sets and computer generated effects are seamless, resulting in a photo-realistic recreation of the Twin Towers. Whether you're watching in 2D or 3D, you'll completely believe that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on a wire 400 metres up in the air.
The colours are natural but have a slight 70s feel to them, which is absolutely the creator's intent, and as the sun rises over New York and Petit begins his walk, the image takes on a lovely 'magic hour' glow. The blacks are suitably deep, whilst there's plenty of shadow detail in the numerous nighttime scenes. The transfer is free of any unwanted digital artefacts and there was no banding apparent, resulting in a perfect image that's demo quality whether you choose the 2D or 3D option.
Obviously given the nature of the film, the 3D version is the preferred option, although just how effective the 3D is will depend on the size of your screen. You certainly get a feeling of height in the 2D version but once you switch to 3D that sensation is palpable. If you're a fan of 3D the The Walk is a no-brainer because even though it was post-converted, Zemeckis understands how to shoot in three dimensions and utilises it effectively; creating a vertigo-inducing experience. The 3D will certainly work on smaller screens but to fully appreciate the filmmakers intentions, you need to see it on as large a screen as possible. So those of you with a projector are in for a treat - unless of course you don't like heights!
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray release of The Walk uses the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel lossless soundtrack that replicates the film's theatrical experience. At the cinema the film used a 5.1-channel soundtrack with a choice of Dolby Digital, Datasat and SDDS but it was also remixed into 12-channel immersive audio for the IMAX screenings. As good as the soundtrack is in 5.1, it's a shame that the disc didn't offer a Dolby Atmos version to really add to the sensation of being up on that wire created by the use of 3D.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack replicates the theatrical experience but it's a shame there isn't a more immersive mix.
However it seems rather churlish to complain about the lack of an immersive audio soundtrack because the 5.1 lossless mix on the Blu-ray is superb and certainly delivers a fantastic audio experience. The music and dialogue are spread across the front three channels, creating an open soundstage that compliments the widescreen visuals. The dialogue always remains clear and positioned relative to the characters on the screen, which is useful with some of the thicker French accents.
The use of low frequency effects is kept to a minimum, giving them greater impact when they do kick in and the surrounds are extremely active throughout the entire film but especially the final twenty minutes. The sound designers take full advantage of all five channels to mix in atmospheric effects that help sell the illusion of being up on that wire, making the experience all the more realistic. Just like the picture, the sound on the Blu-ray release of The Walk is a demo quality experience.
ExtrasDeleted Scenes (05:44) - A series of brief deleted scenes in various states of completion. All of them are fairly minor and don't add anything appreciable to the plot, so they were doubtless cut to tighten the running time.
First Steps - Learning to Walk the Wire (09:11) - This short featurette focuses on how Joseph Gordon-Levitt approached playing Philippe Petit and how the man himself taught Levitt magic tricks, juggling and the art of actually walking a tightrope - albeit with a safety harness.
Pillars of Support (08:27) - This featurette introduces the rest of the cast and the various characters they play; emphasising the crime caper-like nature of the plot and how Petit's various accomplices helped him pull off his incredible achievement. As director Robert Zemeckis himself says, the story plays like a heist movie where nothing is stolen and no-one is hurt.
The Amazing Walk (10:48) - This featurette concentrates on the technical aspects of the production and how the filmmakers recreated Petit's walk and the Twin Towers themselves. It shows the meticulous attention to detail, the sets that were built and the extensive use of green screen to recreate the sensation of being 400 metres up in the air. The featurette also addresses the 3D aspects of the production and why Zemeckis chose to shot in 2D and then convert to 3D in post-production.
Blu-ray VerdictAs a film The Walk is really about its final twenty minutes when it puts the viewer up on that wire with Philippe Petit but the previous two acts still work, primarily thanks to the heist movie nature of the screenplay's construction. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as reliable as always in the role of Petit, even if his accent does often border on 'Allo 'Allo territory. The rest of the cast are serviceable, if not quite as memorable as the crazy Frenchman at the heart of the film. As you'd expect from Robert Zemeckis, the film is technically impressive and the director and his crew do a remarkable job of recreating the World Trade Centre. In fact they do such a good job that it becomes hard to detach the buildings' ultimate fate from Petit's incredible achievement.
The Walk is a fun disc but to fully appreciate the experience intended by the filmmakers you'll need a really big screen.
As a Blu-ray disc The Walk is flawless with a perfect 2D picture and an equally impressive 3D version on a second disc. The digital nature of the film's photography and the expert transfer results in an image that is full of detail, with natural colours, deep blacks and great shadow detail. There is not a hint of any unwanted digital artefacts or banding, so whether you decide to watch the film in 2D or 3D you're sure to be pleased.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is just as impressive, providing a well crafted sound design that surrounds you as Petit steps out on to that wire. It's a shame that the film doesn't have a more immersive audio experience but it's still an excellent soundtrack. The extras are minimal but cover the main aspects of the production and if you want to know more, you can always watch the excellent documentary Man on Wire, which covers Philippe Petit's walk in detail.
Ordinarily we would recommend watching The Walk in 3D, as Robert Zemeckis intended, but for the film to fully achieve its intended effect it needs to completely fill your field of view. So whether you watch in 2D or 3D will depend on how big your screen is but, if you have a projector, then be prepared for a vertigo-inducing experience.
You can buy The Walk on 3D Blu-ray here
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