18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2009
I had seen this in the cinema when it was released and thought it was amazing. Whilst it got rave reviews, unfortunately it was only on in cinemas for a very limited time - one night only in the case of most places.....such a shame as it is truly fantastic. It tells the story of how Philippe Petit walked between the Twin Towers in New York - something which is all the more poignant now that they are no longer there. It is part documentary, with all the people involved in the planning and execution of this insane and incredible feat telling their story. There is also a dramatic reconstruction of how the team were able to get into the Towers and footage of Philippe practicing for this. It also includes footage of his walks between other towers - Notre Dame in Paris and Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and an interview with the man himself.
In the wide screen of the cinema, it was both dramatic and exciting and watching it again on DVD was still an "edge of your seat" experience.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2009
Philippe Petit, a Frenchman high-wire walker was unknown to most people until one summer morning in 1974 he walked across the twin towers on a high-wire. A feat that took him months of secret preparations to accomplish and landed him in prison - outastanding feats always seem to provoke the small-minded. The British documentarist James Marsh, after a long but always as exciting, introduction on Petit's previous feats (walking on a high-wire across Notre Dame Casthedral in Paris and later on Sidney's Harbor Bridge in Australia), relates Petit's twin towers feat like a "Rififi" type of thriller, presenting in detail all the aspects of the preparation and editing his material tightly and with a rythm that catches your breath. Here is a suspenful, some times humorous, drama that at the same time moves you to the point of crying. What the film is finally about is that of a courageous man who, against all logic, walks up and down on a wire, high up in the sky, sitting and relaxing in-between, almost dancing, like a Fred Astaire of the skies, for more than 45 minutes, challenging man, nature and the whole universe, making you feel that you can do anynthing you want as long as you really believe in it! But what is still more exciting is the beauty of it all, of those wonderful images of that man up there, alone and happy, enjoying his Sky Odyssey. A film worthy of many Oscars!!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2009
When a documentary beats Slumdog Millionaire, Hunger, Mama Mia and In Bruges to the Outstanding British Film BAFTA you become very happy when it's just dropped through the letterbox. Simon Chinn and James Marsh's film tells the story (of which I was completely unaware) of Phillipe Petit's daring and illegal high-wire walk between the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York in 1974. The mixture of interview, reconstruction and archive footage immediately brings to mind the superb Touching The Void (itself a BAFTA winner) and this film succeeds in much the same way; building tension, slowly revealing character and showing the devastating impact of a singular event on the lives of those involved.
The film drops you straight into the middle of the action as the various players make their way to the twin towers. Some have criminal sounding names like 'The Australian' or AKA's but we know that this is 'the artistic crime of the century', one with no victims, only leaving those who witnessed it touched by something special. At the centre, Petit is a clownish figure, unsurprising given his street-performer background, looking as a young man a little like Malcolm McDowell but his face now is softened and comical as he takes obvious pleasure from telling the story. This is contrasted with the obvious distress caused to those nearest and dearest to him. His girlfriend talks with great honesty about how this singular man completely dominated her life and conveys even today the sheer magic of being a spectator to his stunts. His closest friend Jean Louis Blondeau is touchingly emotional, conveying more than anyone else the culpability his accomplices felt in an event that could very well of course ended in death.
The element that luck plays in this plan's fulfilment is staggering and when you combine this with the fact that Petit had first come up with the idea on seeing a picture of the towers before construction had even begun (his simple hand-drawn line between the two buildings a perfect illustration of his joyous naivete) you begin to feel that this event had to happen. The effect on those who saw it is palpable, in one great piece of footage the arresting officer is clearly in thrall to this 'tight-rope dancer'. This is what makes the event and its remembrance in this superlative documentary such a fitting way to reclaim the towers from the event which removed them, the event which isn't mentioned once, but which casts such a long shadow that simply seeing a photograph of Petit on the wire, a plane flying past in the background, is enough to remind us of the singularity of his achievement, never to be repeated.
Even if you have a mild touch of vertigo like me this film is a must-see.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I read Philippe Petit's book "To Reach The Clouds" which tell the story of these events a few years ago and even as a book it was a thrilling tale, but as a film it is something else.
Back in 1974, when I was three years old, Philippe Petit had already completed tightrope walks between the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the towers of Notre Dame cathedral, but he had bigger plans. Long before these feats he had seen an article in a magazine whilst in a dentist's waiting room about the future construction of the World Trade Centre, and an idea formed in his mind. From that moment on he wanted to perform incredible tightrope walks, usually without permission, and he knew that the World Trade Centre would be the ultimate.
The film tells the story of how the feat was accomplished, and the voices we hear are those of the perpetrators, including - and most engagingly of all - Petit himself. Most of those involved speak English, but some don't - be prepared for a few subtitles - and the story is told through film shot by the team, photographs (the walk between the towers wasn't filmed) and some subtly done dramatisation which still feels archival.
As a documentary it works extremely well, and in several places it is even exciting as you wonder if they'll be spotted by a security guard, and ask yourself how they'll get the cable between the buildings (the solution is ingenious, if a little Heath-Robinson). Overall the fact that they achieved their goal is a superb example of triumph over adversity.
One last thing. Don't worry about seeing footage of the 9/11 attacks - that terrible event isn't even mentioned.
A superb documentary, and an excellent film all round.
64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2008
`Man On Wire' is a documentary chronicling Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers. A meticulously planned and highly illegal stunt, which involved years of clandestine plotting and finally a generous amount of good luck, director James Marsh claims the story struck him as "a heist movie", and it is evident in the telling. More exciting than all the `Ocean's' films put together, `Man On Wire' is the latest addition to the decade's role call of brilliant documentaries that have revolutionalised the form. From 'Fog of War', `Capturing the Friedmans', `Touching the Void', `Etre et Avoir', and `Grizzly Man', the noughties is replete with fine documentaries that have treated their subjects with a dynamism and imagination that in many cases belies the relative paucity of materials at their filmmakers' disposal. `Man on Wire' most closely resembles `Touching the Void' in that it mixes talking head accounts of real life events with largely reconstructed footage to create a gripping and engaging film. `Man on Wire' even uses fragmented narrative techniques from cinema to stimulate it structurally, and is scored beautifully by Michael Nyman.
Fundamentally, `Man on Wire' succeeds in communicating the transcendent beauty of the highwire act, and depicts Petit's mission as a great artistic - albeit meglomaniacal - vision. The depth of belief in this vision - from the man himself but equally from his co-conspirators, who had to invest enormous emotional and legal risks to help him - is stunningly justified in the scarce photographic footage of the event. And the documentary does more than just give you the story behind the infamous stunt, but touches upon - poignantly, but not explicitly - how the friendships of those involved became severed after its act, and the fatalistic sentiments by the protagonists on this subject is deeply poignant. Once he had become famous, the role of Petit's co-consirators - the logisticians whithout whom the stunt wouldn't have been possible - was quietly forgotten.
There is also the spectre, not mentioned in `Man On Wire' and not overtly implied, of the "falling man" of 9-11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers. What is eerily poetic about this film is that it is indicative of the many other myths and legends ingrained in the World Trade Centre before the hijackings. September 11th is not the only narrative associated with the Twin Towers, which, like all iconic buildings, have many ghosts: some benign, many not. But it is impossible to separate the terrifying image of black-suited Petit lying upon the tightrope as if suspended in clouds with the headfirst descent of the business-suited falling man. Moreover, while the Twin Towers themselves represented a rather megalomaniacal human need to build ever bigger structures, Petit's walk in the sky somehow transformed them momentarily into the gates of heaven. Brilliant.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2009
For a start I can't get my head around the fact that a man actually walked on a high wire between the twin towers!
Petit is unique. This is obvious from his present day interviews in this film and the 1970's footage. He has no rational fear in a way most people have. Otherwise how could he contemplate walking between the towers of Notre Dame or the Sydney Harbour bridge, never mind the World Trade Centre?
The film works on a number of levels.
It shows us the unique way that Petit thinks and sees the world. It lets us see the relationships he had with people who were close to him and helped him "do" the Twin Towers. Through interviews and reconstructions it shows how he and his team went about getting him on the wire.
All these stories are fascinating in themselves. How he got to the top of the buildings with a crew containing selfconfessed flakes is amazing!
Especially touching is the way that Petit's life and the lives of those who were close to him were never the same the minute he stepped off the wire. The story of his "encounter" with a groupie after his release and the reaction of his then long time girlfriend shows this nicely.
Anyone who believes in the power of the human spirit will want to watch this film again and again.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2009
Documentary or not, my movie of the year so far, for sure. A modest, underplayed film about what was - in the great scheme of things - a small and inconsequential event, but a film with deep resonance, and not just in the context of what the Towers' would come to stand (fall?) for. Not that this is explicitly referenced in the film, but so many shots lead one to think of their later fate - the foundations of the buildings as they are going up, the frames with planes just in shot, the crowds stopping to gaze up with a mixture of amazement and fear (shock and awe?). And the film itself is really about another kind of assault on the Towers - but one that is entirely benevolent and, as one of Petit's accomplices says 'without wickedness'.
Petit himself makes the film, not just with his performances on the wire but with his Gallic vivacity and lust for life, a Chaplinesque 'little fellow', a stone-faced clown, standing up to the authority figures invariably to be found ranged at either end of his tightrope as he conquers Notre Dame, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and finally the ultimate prize.
Hugely entertaining, and inspiring too. A gem.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2009
This is a truly magical film. I felt somewhat emotional at the
fact that he actually did what he did, and also the footage of
the towers being built. As the arresting officer said, this is something that you will never see again. However, the film doesn't neglect to show show the casualties of this singular vision. "why?, there is no why."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a superb documentary about Philip Petit's wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974. The documentary is clevely constructed and makes the film as exciting as many thrillers.
Contemparary interviews with the particpants adds enormously to the film, and the emotion that some of them still feel to this day is quite surprising and moving. The idea for the walk first formed in Petit's mind when he saw a newspaper article about the towers before they were built. Years passed before planning could start but eventually the detail fell into place.
There is a lot of original footage in the documentary, as well as reconstructions and material from his earlier walks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and others.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Yes, there is someone crazier than the building-climbing "Spiderman," and his name is Phillippe Petit, who will forever be known for his death-defying tightrope walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. He didn't simply walk; over the course of eight crossings, he knelt, lay, saluted, and all but danced 1368 feet above the teeming crowd below for some forty-five minutes. Man on Wire (the title comes from the police description of the incident) is the story of what has been called the artistic crime of the century, from the birth of the dream inside a dentist's office in 1968 to the completion of the amazing feat six years later. While there are plenty of interviews with Petit's friends and accomplices, this is truly Petit's story. Somewhere around 60 years of age now, Petit emotes a flamboyant energy and passion that demands your undivided attention, making it easier to see how he was able to recruit the team members necessary to pull off such a suicidal, highly illegal and seemingly impossible "le coup." When this film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Petit balanced the Oscar on his chin for the audience, in true showman fashion.
Obviously, you don't just climb to the top of one of the Twin Towers, throw a cable across to the sister tower, and walk across. The planning took six years. During that time, Petit and several of his accomplices spent months basically casing the site, figuring out how to evade different levels of security, sneaking up to the roof on several occasions, taking photographs and constructing scale models to see how to set up the rigging for the walk, and trying to create during training the sort of unstable conditions Petit would face during his feat. At one point, he passed himself off as a writer for a French architecture magazine in order to interview workers who were still completing the construction of the buildings. While the Frenchman had made death-defying tight rope walks at Notre Dame Cathedral and Sydney Harbor Bridge, he had never faced the dangers that this walk entailed.
There's rather a sad side to Petit's story, as well - namely, the breakdown of some of Petit's personal relationships in the wake of his great triumph. One gets the sense that, even as she watched him make this magical tightrope walk, Petit's extremely supportive girlfriend sensed that she was losing him - both personally and spiritually. Petit now belonged to the world that reveled in his daring accomplishment, and the man gleefully recounts how he made passionate love to one of his brand new fans as soon as he was released from police custody. It is the story of Petit's relationships with the men and women who devoted themselves to helping him realize his dangerous dream that makes this documentary such an emotional viewing experience. Petit is revealed herein with all of his spots, which makes this a very human story. The charisma of the man is also something to behold, and listening to him speak about his art and dreams is nothing short of spellbinding. I could never have turned my eyes to the sky to watch this man taunt death between the Twin Towers, but nothing could have taken my eyes off of every second of this unique and powerful documentary.