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Man On Wire (2008) - Movie Review

The Artistic Crime of the Century

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


In Man On Wire, director James Marsh recreates the magic moment in which famous French tightrope walker Philippe Petit stepped off the top of one of the World Trade Center twin towers, onto a wire, and walked across space, to the other tower. It was August 7, 1974. Petit was 1350 feet above the ground. Thousands of awestruck people watched from the streets below, news cameras filmed and broadcast the event from helicopters that buzzed through the surrounding airspace and people around the world were mesmerized by the amazing stunt.

Practice Makes Perfect

Using amazing archival footage of the event, intimate interviews with Petit and his accomplices and an engaging narrative, Marsh makes us witness to Petit's feat, and informs us about what transpired before and after the famous wire walk.

In fact, Petit, who'd wire walked in plenty of other famous and exotic places, was obsessed with wire walking between the still unfinished twin towers. It became his top secret mission--and it had to be secret because his mission was unquestionably illegal.

It took Petit and several loyal supporters eight months to strategize for the stunt. They developed a plan as intricate and sneaky as that required for a bank heist. They had to sneak past World Trade Center security, haul heavy equipment to the top of the still-under-construction buildings, find a way to suspend the wire between the twin towers. Only then could Petit fulfill his dream by stepping out on that wire, a lone lithe dancer, and laying life, limb and soul on the line to perform his mid-air ballet. It was a moment of poetry in motion, of inexplicably beautiful and defiant art.

The moment he stepped off the wire, reality came crashing in. Petit was arrested and jailed. No surprised that outcry from adoring fans and an appreciative public got him released. Charges were dropped, but Petit was sentenced to perform another tightrope stunt for New York City--this was rigged over Belvedere Lake in Central Park.

Capturing the Moment

Man On Wire's cinematic tension equals the tension in that wire that supported Petit's space walk. We know the outcome but, still, we hold our breath. Marsh captures all the drama of Petit's reaching for his dream. If you weren't around to see the real deal, this is a compelling reconstruction. It is also a poignant memorial to the hallowed twin towers, which--even in construction--served as an icon for Petit, and continue to do so for us today.

Film Details

  • Release Date: July 25, 2008 in New York, with national roll out to follow.
  • Runtime: 94 mins.
  • Rated: PG-13 for some sexuality and nudity, and drug references.
  • Parents Guide: Content advisory
  • Country: UK
  • Language: English/French
  • Company: Magnolia Pictures/Discovery Films
  • Awards:
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