Written PostMan on Wire

Man on Wire

Although it was released months ago (and is actually already on DVD!)  it was only at the very end of December that I was finally able to see the documentary Man on Wire.  I’d been interested in this film ever since I first heard about it many months ago.  Luckily, the film was still playing at a local theatre so I was able to see it on the big screen.  

Man on Wire is about Philippe Petit, the French high-wire walker who, on August 7th, 1974, illegally rigged a wire between the top floors of the Twin Towers in New York City and walked across.  

Take a second to soak that in.  This was an astounding, unbelievable achievement.  The film allows us to get to know Mr. Petit, his background and what drove him to attempt such an incredible, death-defying stunt.  We also spend a great deal of time with Petit’s friends and associates, many of whom were key players in the planning of the event.  

There is nothing particularly dramatic or attention-grabbing about the film itself.  It relies mostly on “talking-head” interviews with Petit and his associates, interspersed with a number of photographs and (amazing) footage of the high-wire walk itself.  The film also uses some discrete, mostly silhouetted re-enactments to bring life to some of the behind-the-scenes events that were, of course, not actually filmed back in 1974.  (Mostly these re-enactments cover the events of the lengthy night that the group of friends spent hiding in the two towers to set up all of the equipment Petit would need for his attempt.) But the film doesn’t need to be showy — the incredible story speaks for itself.  

Mr. Petit is a lively, engaging, albeit bizarre individual, and it is fascinating to peel back the drive that lead him to walk across a thin wire strung between two of the tallest buildings in the world.  It is equally fascinating to learn the details of how the heck they actually got into the Twin Towers and hung the wire between the buildings!  No surprise, this was easier said than done.

I don’t want to tell you any more about the film than I have so far — it is best discovered for yourselves.  I will say that this is an exhilarating film, one that pushes you to contemplate the importance of art, and of the out-of-the-ordinary, in all of our lives… and the human drive to do that which they say cannot be done.  

(I think you’ll also be pleased when you discover where the title of the movie comes from.)

This is a magnificent film, one of the best of the year.

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