On the morning of August 7, 1974 French high-wire artist Philippe Petit walked back and forth along a wire stretched more than 400 metres above Manhattan, between the two towers of the brand-new World Trade Center.
Almost as incredible as the achievement itself is the fact that no moving images exist of it: the team member assigned to shoot 16mm film of the climax of more than six years of preparation fled in fright as police arrived.
In an interview at the time of the release of Man on Wire, the enthralling, entrancing Oscar-winning 2008 documentary about the walk, Petit told me he initially regretted that, "but I came to think that it is very unusual and very beautiful that there is no moving footage. Especially now that the towers are not there any more, it feels like we are in the domain of the legend."
He would presumably regret this dramatisation since it turns that legend, which novelist Paul Auster called "a gift of astonishing, indelible beauty" into something dispiritingly banal.
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The disappointment begins with the bone-headedly literal title (the inspired Man on Wire mixed poetic ineffability with needlepoint precision, an achievement since it originated in the prosaic language of a police report). But the film's fatal flaw is its reason for being: the battery of special effects, which turn the quixotic, impossibly daring adventure into a hokey, frisson-free display of CGI mastery.
Levitt, sporting a creditable French accent, does a good job as the charmless, single-minded Petit, conveying the arrogance that is a doubtless necessary part of his genius.
To its credit, the film doesn't play fast and loose with the facts - though it ups the ante by giving one character an implausible fear of heights.
But the film is more gimmickry than poetry. The effects are state-of-the-art, but the effect is remarkably earthbound.
Cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Running Time: 123 mins
Rating: TBC In English and French with English subtitles
Verdict: Remarkably and dispiritingly banal