Man on Wire (2008) (PG-13)













A remarkable thing happens while watching James Marsh's Oscar winning feature, "Man on Wire"—you forget that you're watching a documentary.
Yes, the narration is there and yes, you know how it's going to end because of the people narrating but it doesn't stop your heart from racing and your breath from deepening. Really, it's quite astonishing.
Philippe Petit was a wirewalker who dared to live. His passion is so undeniable that it makes you reevaluate your own decisions.
This man was so willing to do anything for his dream that he even risked his own life.
"Man on Wire" retells the story of Petit as he walks across the gap between the north and south towers of The World Trade Center on a wire. This happens on August 7th, 1974.
The film begins as we trace a reenactment of the people involved, set up their gear and sneak into the towers, one group in each tower. They will have to shoot a fishing line across the gap with a bow and arrow and then slowly increase the type of rope—going from fishing line to rope, to thick rope, and then to the actual wire. After securing the wire in place they will have to place two wires going across the walking wire to stabilize it. Imagine looking down and not being able to see people you're that high up. Now imagine wind, mist, and the sway of the buildings and try to walk across a wire....not me, my friends.
I would like to think that I'm not scared of much, although that has been disproved many times by rubber snakes in my bathtub on April Fool's Day...yes, thank you, my wonderful family.
Height, unlike rubber snakes, is not something that I'm afraid of. I don't enjoy roller coasters and won't ride them if given the chance but just standing on the top of something tall doesn't really phase me.
"Man on Wire" is so well crafted and executed that I was almost having panic attacks at the shots looking down to the ground from the air. It's 1350 feet to the ground, if you fall from that...you aren't getting back up.
The narration of the movie comes from many different interviews including Petit himself and his friends Jean Francois Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, and Annie Allix. Petit, even in his older age is still very much passionate and very much childish. It's the loss of innocence that Petit never suffered that allows him to believe that everything is possible and to chase his dreams down and pin them to the ground until he has achieved them.
But what I didn't care for in the theatrics of the story are just that—the theatrics. Petit is so quirky and bizarre as a narrator that sometimes you being to feel that you're watching a horror version of Sesame Street. He has a couple of props that he uses and he peaks from behind curtains to show how he was feeling at the time. As time wears on and Petit gets even more outlandish, soaking up the lime light that is being shown upon him a very dangerous thing happens, his credibility starts to be doubted. There were slight hesitations in my mind and there still are about minor events in the wirewalking. They seem too cliche and rehearsed to be true. Scenes like Petit and a security guard circling an obstacle in a version of hide-and-seek that leads to Petit peeking from behind his curtain don't always carry the weight that they should.
The impact that this walk had on Petit's friends is blatantly visible and the film regains its power in these interview scenes.
Nothing can reproduce the feeling of seeing images of Petit's walk, after all this time—he finally makes it, while Erik Satie's Gymnopédie No.1 is playing.
It's quite haunting.
"Man on Wire" is thrilling enough to not be a documentary but truthful enough to leave you speechless.
It's a beautiful piece of art.


Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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