Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

the walk20151007cnsbr0853 800Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in a scene from the movie "The Walk." CNS photo/Sony)

NEW YORK (CNS) – In August 1974, just as the Watergate scandal was approaching its climax with the announcement that President Richard Nixon would resign, a very different news story was competing for headlines.

To the astonishment of onlookers – and that of the world at large – French high-wire artist Philippe Petit succeeded in walking across an improvised tightrope strung between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center.

The circumstances surrounding the 24-year-old's signature achievement, which he aptly dubbed his "coup," were recounted in Petit's 2002 memoir, "To Reach the Clouds." Having previously provided the basis for filmmaker James Marsh's highly regarded 2008 documentary, "Man on Wire," Petit's book has now been charmingly dramatized as "The Walk" (TriStar).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit, serving as both protagonist and narrator. In both capacities – for the latter purpose, he's perched high above the city's harbor on the torch-bearing arm of Lady Liberty – Gordon-Levitt draws viewers in with a charismatic combination of Gallic verve and Gotham-style gumption.

As the generally lighthearted narrative makes clear, that unusual combination of qualities was exactly what Petit would need to pull off his mad scheme. He would also benefit from the physical and psychological training – as well as the show-biz spiritual inspiration – supplied by his mentor, veteran circus performer "Papa" Rudy Omankowsky (Ben Kingsley).

Further support takes shape as Petit assembles an unlikely crew of co-conspirators to aid him in his secretive preparations. They include his live-in girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony), a photographer intent on documenting Petit's feat, and Jean-Francois, aka "Jeff," (Cesar Domboy), a laid-back hippie whose enthusiasm for Petit's project is somewhat undercut by his fear of heights.

Once Petit reaches New York itself, fast-talking Franco-American salesman Jean-Pierre (James Badge Dale) also joins the team, adding local savvy to the mix.

As Petit finally gets the chance to make his journey across the void, director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis marshals dazzling 3-D special effects to convey the acrobat's giddy experience with almost overwhelming immediacy. While these scenes will likely thrill many grown-ups, they may leave others feeling unsettled, if not downright queasy.

Recommendation for younger moviegoers, however, is hindered by the un-vowed amour Petit and Annie share as well as by the script's comic treatment of pot smoking. Though the later activity is shown to hobble the usefulness of two minor participants in Petit's audacious plan, it's otherwise portrayed as a harmless target for laughs.

As for a quirky interlude during which Petit briefly strips down to facilitate his pre-dawn search for the cable he's about to traverse, it's completely removed from any sexual context, discreetly dealt with, and – apparently – true to the facts.

The film contains cohabitation, benignly viewed drug use, fleeting rear nudity, about a half-dozen profanities and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mr. Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
- - -

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.