Man On Wire


Directed by: James Marsh
Released: October 16, 2008
Grade: A-

This story is amazing.  I can’t believe that I haven’t heard it before.  On 7 August 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit and his crew rigged a wire between the two World Trade Centre towers in New York City.  Philippe then walked back and forth across the wire for 45 minutes… with no safety harness whatsoever.

Let’s pause and think about this for a moment.  How is this humanly possible?  How can someone have the courage to walk on a tightrope which is 450m above the ground whilst knowing the obvious risks?  It’s crazy.  What’s equally fascinating is the lead up to the stunt itself.  It took months of preparation and a lot of illegal activity.  It wasn’t an easy task to sneak into the two towers will all of their equipment.

Man On Wire, directed by Englishman James Marsh, brings this mind-blowing story to the big screen in a documentary-style format.  You’ll see interviews with Philippe and those who were part of his team.  The visuals include a mix of actual footage and re-enacted scenes.

The film is structured to be suspenseful.  It starts out by looking at Philippe’s background and how he first became fascinated by the World Trade Centre towers.  It then follows two of his earlier conquests where he walked across wires on the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Those alone make for good viewing.

It all leads up to “the” moment which you know is coming.  I sat there in the cinema and was shaking my head.  I even felt nauseous when I saw the view looking down.  The only downside to this film is that I wanted to know more about what happened afterwards.

It’s touched upon briefly but his impossible feat had everyone talking in New York City.  It was interesting time in America because the very next day, Richard Nixon resigned as President in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  It must have been interesting dinner conversation in many homes that night… talking about a crazy Frenchman and a corrupt leader.

Man On Wire picked up both the jury and audience award in the documentary category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.  It is slowly being released around the globe and now that it’s arrived here in Australia, it’s a film you won’t want to miss.