Zemeckis smooths away some of the rougher edges of the real Petit to deliver a playful film that uses the well-worn tropes of a standard heist caper
(assembling a team, staking out the location, near run ins with security guards) effectively. Building up the tension until and beyond the moment Petit
finally steps out on to the wire itself.
At this point the film really comes into its own and does what the documentary couldn't, puts you onto the wire along with Petit. The final third is real
heart-in-the-mouth stuff even if you know the outcome. Although it's obviously a lot of CGI and little actual height, vertigo sufferers may want to give
this a miss.
Though the character of Petit has the potential to be an insufferably arrogant fool (he starts off as a unicycle riding, top hat wearing, mime artist) the
ever-likeable Joseph Gordon-Levitt soon gets the audience on his side despite a dodgy French accent and even dodgier wig. Ben Kingsley hams it up enjoyably
as Petit's mentor, Charlotte Le Bon is fine if increasingly underused as the film goes on and James Badge Dale, Cesar Domboy, Clement Sibony and Ben
Schwartz are very good as some of the members of Petit's team.
For once, there is a decent use of 3D throughout from a director who really understands the medium (especially in the final third) and thankfully the film
never overplays the final fate of the World Trade Centre. Its one nod to it in the very last shot is bittersweet and surprisingly subtle. Plus an equally
playful Alan Silvestri score compliments the visuals.
There are a few clunky moments. I could have done without the slightly twee and whimsical decision to have Levitt narrate the story throughout standing by
the Statue of Liberty torch and the moments where unnecessary attention is constantly and clumsily drawn to the switch to English instead of the natural
French (Petit wants to keep practicing it as he's going to New York. Translation: This is a mainstream Hollywood movie and too many subtitles might
alienate general audiences).