Man on Wire

The “Artistic Crime of the Century”.


Trailer for “Man on Wire”

Watch “Man on Wire”

Release Date: July 25, 2008

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  • My Rating: 96/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 87/100 (Users); 100/100 (Critics)

Review of “Man on Wire”

“Man on Wire” is a riveting 2008 doc directed by James Marsh.

It chronicles the legendary high-wire walk by Philippe Petit between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974.

This 94-minute film is a captivating blend of suspense, artistry, and daring. It presents an intimate look at what Petit himself calls the “artistic crime of the century.”

The documentary opens with Petit’s first glimpse of the Twin Towers in a magazine.

This moment sparked his six-year obsession with walking between them.

Marsh expertly combines archival footage, reenactments, and interviews to tell the story from inception to execution.

Petit, born in France, was already an accomplished high-wire artist when he conceived the idea. The movie introduces us to his eclectic team of friends and co-conspirators: Jean-Louis Blondeau, his photographer; Annie Allix, his then-girlfriend; and Jean-François Heckel, his close friend.

Each member played a crucial role in the meticulous planning and execution of the stunt.

The preparation was intense and intricate, resembling a heist movie. The team conducted multiple reconnaissance missions, meticulously planning every detail to evade the tight security of the World Trade Center. Marsh’s direction captures this tension brilliantly.

The black-and-white reenactments of these preparations add a dramatic flair.

One standout sequence is the final night before the walk. Petit and his crew, disguised as construction workers, smuggle their equipment into the towers.

They spend hours rigging the 200-foot wire across the 140-foot gap between the buildings. The sense of urgency and danger is palpable. At one point, Petit’s team nearly gets caught by a security guard, adding a nail-biting element to the narrative.

At dawn, with the wire finally secured, Petit steps out onto the wire. For 45 minutes, he performs a series of acrobatics 1,350 feet above the ground, including kneeling on one knee, lying down, and making multiple passes.

Marsh’s use of archival footage and still photographs captures the ethereal beauty of Petit’s performance.

The scene is underscored by Michael Nyman’s hauntingly beautiful score, particularly the piece “Fish Beach,” which enhances the emotional impact.

Interviews with Petit and his team provide insightful commentary on the experience. Petit’s charismatic personality shines through as he recounts his feelings of elation during the walk.

His sheer joy and passion are infectious. Annie Allix and Jean-Louis Blondeau offer poignant reflections on the emotional and physical toll the event took on their lives and relationships.

The aftermath of the walk is also explored. Petit was arrested immediately after his descent but was later released. Charges were dropped in exchange for a performance for children in Central Park.

His feat made headlines worldwide, turning him into an instant celebrity. However, this fame came at a cost. The strain of the stunt led to tensions within his team and the dissolution of his relationship with Annie.

“Man on Wire” won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It’s easy to see why. James Marsh’s direction is both sensitive and thrilling. He balances the high-stakes drama of the heist with intimate character studies.

The film is a testament to human creativity and determination. It showcases how one man’s dream can captivate the world.

For those seeking inspiration, “Man on Wire” delivers. It’s a celebration of daring and the relentless pursuit of dreams. Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers is more than a stunt; it’s a work of art that challenges us to see the world differently.

As Petit himself puts it, “Life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge.”

Watch “Man on Wire” and be inspired by the heights one man can reach with unyielding passion and courage.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc