Man on Wire (2008)

man on wire poster 2008 documentary tightrope world trade center
9.0 Overall Score

A story of something that cannot happen again


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Man on Wire

Studio:   Icon Productions

Genre(s):   Documentary

Release Date(s):   January 22, 2008 (Sundance Film Festival)/July 25, 2008 (US)

MPAA Rating:   PG-13

man on wire documentary philippe petit practice tightrope walker

Knock him off! Knock him off!

Philippe Petit found his dream.  A vision of the under-construction World Trade Center gave Philippe the idea that he wanted to walk between the World Trade Center buildings as a professional wire-walker.  To see this dream to come reality, Philippe and a team of men must break laws and infiltrate the secure construction site and that doesn’t even consider the challenge of walking a wire.

Directed by James Marsh, Man on Wire is a documentary about Philippe Petit’s wire walk between the buildings of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974.  The documentary was released to critical acclaim.  The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

When the World Trade Center fell, the skyline of New York City was changed forever.  A documentary about the famous towers construction might have been dull, and a film focusing on their fall would be depressing.  Instead, Man on Wire looks at a moment that many consider to be magical…and the sheer joy of the people involve show a sense of wonder that brings the viewers along.

man on wire documentary recreation security guard tarp philippe peitit

Worst game of hide-and-seek ever

Petit’s fortitude and desire to “walk” the Towers is contagious.  With the possibility of death, viewers might question why his friends would go along with him, but just watching Petit, you can see the sheer glee he has.  One of the great moments from the documentary was one of the arresting police officers even seeing that what Petit was doing wasn’t going to get him killed and instead was something special.  It was something entirely new because the buildings were new.

It is important to point out that Petit was breaking the law.  It is interesting to see how security has changed over the years.  Construction sites are locked down much tighter and the idea of just being able to talk your way to the top of the World Trade Center is amazing…especially considering what happened first with the bombing in 1993 and the eventual fall in 2001.  Petit’s actions however aren’t violent, and the biggest problem is that his death could have opened up the WTC to lawsuits.

man on wire documentary wtc world trade center philippe petit tightrope

So many things could gave gone wrong…but everything came together beautifully

Visually, the movie is a great combination of vintage footage of Petit and his friends practicing, recreations of events (like the classic hiding under a blanket), pictures, and new interviews.  It is a documentarian’s dream that Petit and his people had so much footage and then the added national press helped provide more imagery for the film.

Man on Wire is one of those classic documentaries.  It isn’t controversial, it can be enjoyed by almost all ages, and it shows the sheer joy of exploration and experimentation.  So many thing could have gone wrong with Petit’s “walk”, but everything worked out in his benefit.  With the loss of the World Trade Center, it is nice to go back and see a moment before the horror where the WTC brought people together in amazement and joy.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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