3 Big Movies

'Martian, 'Walk,' 'Sicario' all excellent

“The Walk” — Why bother retelling how Philippe Petit wire-walked across the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 1974 when the documentary “Man on Wire” already did it so thoroughly? Director Robert Zemeckis’s answer? The “Forrest Gump” auteur adds thrilling 3-D visuals and a sense of mischief with “The Walk.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the acrobat obsessed with walking from one Tower to the other — only not on the sidewalk. His scrappy band of co-conspirators is a hoot, but it’s Gordon-Levitt’s joie de vivre that makes “Walk” one of the year’s most invigorating films.

Your heart will get stuck in your throat as Phillipe’s foot hits that wire, and it’ll stay there thanks to Zemeckis’ remarkable blend of real actors and CGI trickery. That razzle-dazzle overwhelms some character development deficiencies and a third-act twist comes from beyond left field. Still, the movie’s moist-eyed tribute to the fallen Towers is one of many reasons to see “The Walk.” Just be warned: Some early viewers have found the 3-D imagery a mite too realistic, resulting in some seriously upset stomachs from the film’s critical moments.

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“Sicario” — Think the War on Drugs is futile? Then you’ll enjoy the somber, meticulously crafted “Sicario” more than most moviegoers. Emily Blunt stars as a FBI agent trying to stop Mexican drug runners before they wreak havoc stateside. Benicio del Toro steals scene after scene as Blunt’s most ambiguous partner, but the real star is the haunting score that makes nearly every scene hum with tension.

Yes, the fatalist view of fighting the cartels is both raw and repetitive. Still, Blunt makes for a grizzled Everywoman, a patriot who simply wants to follow the letter of the law. Josh Brolin is her foil, someone who can’t be trusted despite his plastic grin. “Sicario” isn’t mainstream entertainment. The action sequences crackle, but the story structure is more like a ’70s-era film than one meant to trip our pleasure-seeking sensors. There are no easy answers on stopping the flow of drugs into the country, and “Sicario” mirrors that depressing reality.

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“The Martian” — Director Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner,” “Alien”) recovers from last year’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” debacle with this soaring tribute to human ingenuity. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars and must wait months, possibly years, for a rescue. The underrated Damon can hold the screen sans help as well as Tom Hanks did in “Cast Away” even if the screenplay is a bit glib.

Damon’s character has a hearty sense of humor, which comes in handy through his triumphs and setbacks. A crackerjack supporting cast (Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor) lends gravitas and grit to a story that at times is too spit-polished for its own good. Minor flaws aside, “Martian,” based on the best-selling novel of the same name, earns its pre-release hype. Younger viewers get the rare chance to root on a hero who saves himself not with his fists but with his mind.

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