Man On Wire (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/06/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Brilliantly directed, hugely entertaining documentary that tells a genuinely stunning story and paints a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary man.

What's it all about?
Directed by James Marsh, Man On Wire dramatically reconstructs the so-called "artistic crime of the 20th century", when, on August 7th 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped onto a high wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and performed for 45 minutes. (The title of the film comes from the words that a New York cop wrote on his arrest report.)

The story is told entirely in the words of the people behind the stunt, from the wildly animated Petit himself (who continually leaps up to act out what happened) to his loyal (and not-so-loyal) band of co-conspirators, including his then girlfriend Annie Allix and his best friend, Jean-Louis Blondeau.

The Good
Granted access to Petit's astonishing archive of original footage and photographs, Marsh tells the story in gripping fashion, with the meticulous, step-by-step preparation for the stunt (including smuggling the necessary equipment up the towers in advance) unfolding gradually, intercut with interviews, archive footage and background detail on Petit's life and career, including his previous stunts above Notre Dame in 1971 and Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1973.

The Great
The footage of the stunt itself is nothing short of astonishing, while there are also several unexpectedly hilarious moments, as well as some surprisingly emotional scenes that catch you off guard. Similarly, there's a powerful and inescapable resonance with the events of 9/11, not just because the towers themselves no longer exist, but also because we know that anyone attempting a similar stunt today would end up in Guantanamo Bay – indeed, the plan is structured like a heist movie and it's not too much of a leap from heist to terrorist attack.

Worth seeing?
In short, Man On Wire is a superbly made documentary that is powerful, moving, frequently funny and, above all, genuinely uplifting. Indeed, by the time it reaches its climax, you'll want to stand up and applaud. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Man On Wire (12A)
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Content updated: 23/09/2018 23:00

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