Man on Wire is a documentary from director James Marsh, telling the remarkable story of French born artist and ‘wire walker’ Philippe Petit’s 1974 dare-devil walk between the two towers of the World Trade Centre. The documentary uses interviews with key protagonists (including the infectious Petit), photographs and film from the period, and docu-drama style filmed re-enactments of events.
The story was dramatised by Robert Zemeckis in The Walk (2015), worth watching if only for the nail biting, anxiety inducing final 20 minute sequence recreating the stunt.
For the first 10 minutes of Man on Wire, all I could think was ‘Why would someone be nuts enough to want to stage an illegal walk between the Twin Towers?’, by the climax of the film, the most important thing in the world was that Philippe Petit walked the walk on top of the WTC.
Marsh allows Petit to do his thing, casting his spell on us as he did his fellow ‘conspirators’ in 1974. This works quite wonderfully, and plays almost like a heist movie as we a drawn into the heady atmosphere of 70’s NYC. Though some of the filmed recreations are a little creaky, this is a minor issue that does not detract from the story. The main triumph of the piece is the building of tension in a narrative that we know the outcome of – Spoiler; Petit is still here.
Man on Wire is a very solid, enjoyable documentary.