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Man on Wire – One man’s obsession gone to the extreme

Submitted by on February 21, 2009 – 9:12 pmOne Comment

man_on_wire_ver2Man on Wire (commonly misnamed Man on a Wire) is a simple tale of one man’s obsession, , a submissive woman, friendship gained and lost , a couple of buildings and above all….hope.

It is the tale of Philippe Petit and his tightrope walk (or even dance) between the of the World Trade Center in 1974. Perhaps it is fitting then that the documentary doesn’t focus on the loss of the Twin Towers but concentrates on the magnificence of the act and how this -style plan came off.


A look at Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, “the artistic crime of the century.”


When you are told a story about a you expect to sit there in awe whilst the storyteller recounts their tale. What you do not expect is a very visual performance by the main character and the amount of flamboyance used in telling the tale. This is where Man on Wire falls down as there is no need to build the story up to the degrees that this film did. It pulls you into the obsessive and eccentric world of Philippe Petit and his obsession with conquering the Twin Towers along with his ever-.

However, making an interesting story interesting isn’t difficult. Investigating the aftermath of an interesting event is a great deal more difficult. For me, Man on Wire ended too abruptly as it only brushed lightly of made and broken friendships. The film ends with you in awe of the feat that Petit managed but angry at how incredibly selfish the post tightrope events panned out.

The story that is told in a bank style of writing is one of those few occasions that the good guys and the bad guys are difficult to spot. Again, more could have been made from this but sadly this story wasn’t told.

What James Marsh (the director) seemingly did was to let an individual tell his tale and let the story tell itself. Unfortunately by the end of the film, you see Philippe Petit for what he truly is and you realise that there is another tangent to this story which remains unseen.

Man on Wire is a documentary of an undoubtedly magnificent event. However because of the unchallenging storytelling in the film, the documentary itself is not quite as magnificent. I would recommend it to you and undoubtedly it is entertaining but I had expected much more. For me, Man on Wire deserves no Academy Award because the magnificence of the subject matter vastly overshadows the film that is telling the story


A tale half told is not a tale at all. Let’s not forget that this is a story (which has a seemingly endless amount of flamboyance layered on for effect) that focuses on one man. The man in question is entertaining without doubt, but that doesn’t mean you’ll like him when the credits roll.

The best way to enjoy this documentary is to completely ignore “wirewalker” Petit’s pantomime and concentrate on the few ever-faithful friends and their story which is too quickly ignored.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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