Top 5... - February 1, 2016

The Walk (and five other documentaries that deserve the movie treatment)
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor,

The Walk (and five other documentaries that deserve the movie treatment)

Some of you may already be familiar with James Marsh's 2008 documentary Man on Wire, detailing the exploits of a Frenchman named Philippe Petit. For those of you aren't familiar with his story, Petit rose to fame and notoriety in 1974 when he completed a highly daring – and totally illegal – high-wire walk between the twin towers of what used to be the World Trade Center in New York City. Not just once, but eight times over a period of 45 minutes, during which he walked, danced and knelt down to salute his amassing audience below from a height of 1,350 feet.

Marsh's documentary won numerous awards and universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Robert Zemeckis - the director behind the Back to the Future films and Forrest Gump – was so inspired by Petit's story that he decided to make a feature film about his daredevil antics and last year The Walk opened in cinemas, again to impressive reviews.

Zemeckis' film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role of Petit and details the extraordinary lengths he went to in order to plan and execute his daring feat, including faking ID cards to get himself into the Word Trade Center building and some incredibly detailed reconnaissance missions, as well as a number of experiments involving methods of getting a zip wire from one tower to another without anyone noticing.

Much like the documentary, the film charts the risk and ingenuity involved, but where Zemickis' film perhaps goes a little deeper is in examining the personal stress Petit was putting himself under and charting its impact on himself and those around him.

Gordon-Levitt does an impressive job in the lead role, as does Kingsley in the role his mentor, and though the rest of the cast isn't bulging with big names the mostly French cast are well chosen and pull of this biopic extremely well.

The film arrives in stores on Monday (you can pre-order your copy at the top right of this page) and you can watch the trailer below. In the meantime though we've picked five other documentaries that hyave all the right ingredients to work as a feature film in their own right...



Life Itself

Roger Ebert is probably one of the best-known film critics in America, if not the world, but his life story is just as fascinating as the plot to any one of the thousands of films that Ebert has written about. This documentary from Steve James captures his life, his rivalry with fellow critic Gene Siskel and the battle with cancer that required the removal of the lower half of his jaw. Despite this, Ebert continued to write and in addition to his work as a film critic his career has seen him take on some unlikely screenwriting work for Russ Meyer. James' documentary is brilliantly touching, but Ebert's is a story worthy of any big screen biopic.


Finding Vivian Maier

Over the last few years a quiet eccentric who lived her life in New York working as a nanny has been revealed to be one of the most important photographers of the 20th century when a huge archive of unpublished photos and undeveloped negatives was discovered amongst her belongings after her death. Vivian Maier's story has been played out in the newspapers and on television over the months that have passed since her death and this documentary by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel traces her life and attempts to work out why Maier kept her groundbreaking work private. Her recognition came only after her death, but hers is another story that richly deserves the biopic treatment.


Anvil! The Story of Anvil

You could argue that a film version of the events depicted in Anvil! has sort of already happened - Rob Reiner's classic send-up Spinal Tap pretty much tells the same sort of story – but here the people and the story are heartbreakingly real. The tale of one metal band's failure to reach the heights that they and those around them believed they deserved, this is a testament to perseverance in the face of repeated failure and the guys in the band Anvil deserve to be held up as heroes just for never giving up on their dreams.


The Wrecking Crew

During the 1960s and 70s there was barely a record made in California that didn't feature the talents of a handful of session musicians, yet most people couldn't name any of them. This documentary is lovingly assembled by the filmmaker son of one of the group's guitarists and sheds light on the pioneering work by a group of musicians who played on everything from the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds to the Pink Panther theme tune, and plenty more besides. Given their name because of the way the established, besuited session musicians of the day reacted to the jeans and t-shirt wearing upstarts they believed would 'wreck the music industry', theirs is another tale that deserves a much wider audience. Besides, the soundtrack would write itself.


The Imposter

One of the most chilling true crime documentaries you'll ever witness – and we don't say this lightly – The Imposter tells the story of a family whose reunification with their missing child takes a disturbing turn when they begin to suspect that the young man found in Europe and claiming to be their son may not be telling the truth. As well as being a fascinating insight into how the grief-stricken can be particularly susceptible to fraud, this has all the elements of a brilliant psychological thriller and it would be great to see someone tackle the story on the big screen.

The Walk
The Walk Robert Zemeckis

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