Man On Wire (2008) – James Marsh

In 1974, Phillipe Petit walked on a highwire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. His story, which walked away with the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2009, is the next big film in DK Canada’s entertaining tome, The Movie Book.

Filled with interviews of all the people involved, archival footage and photographs, and the occasional recreation, Phillipe’s tale is captivating, tense, and everything you would expect from a blockbuster. From his crossing of the Notre Dame towers, to a bridge in Australia, the film documents Petit’s earlier escapades, his youth, and the persuasive dream, his destiny, to cross the towers.

But it wouldn’t be easy, it would be a convoluted plan, a break-in of the highest degree, coupled with a beautiful, but incredibly tense act of art on a wire strung between two buildings four hundred and fifteen meters in the air.

Through the course of the film we are introduced to all the other parties who were pivotal in their support of Petit’s dream, who helped plan it, and helped pull it off, whether they saw it through to the end or not.

The images and film of Phillipe’s acts are stunning to watch, the bravery, the skill, the sheer belief in one’s abilities… it’s nothing short of jaw-dropping.


Marsh as the director, knows he has a fantastic story here, and tells it perfectly, cutting back and forth through time as the Petit party mounts the Trade Center, eluding guards, and waiting for an opportunity to make their move. While this is going on we are guided through his past, and those of his friends.

Seeing the towers on screen is a little bittersweet, but yet this act of creativity and playful defiance seems a nice homage to the buildings, and also sereves as a commentary on seizing upon and following one’s life dreams.

This is a perfect documentary, it’s funny, smart, tense, beautifully shot, crafted, and edited, marrying archival footage with modern interviews, all put to purpose, telling and advancing a story. A story that for some was completely unknown until the film was released.

And like all documentaries it inspries conversation, and ruminations on one’s own life.

In the end, I was left gob smacked, seeing the image of Petit kneeling on a wire, one arm jauntily arched in salute, seemingly hovering in mid-air between two incredibly tall buildings, pursuing a dream.

There’s a commentary for life, and chasing one’s ambition there, but I’ll leave it to you to find it on your own when you watch this one for yourself. Or you could pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find a new to you classic to watch tonight.


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