Rating: 3.5 stars
I have a vague early memory of a blurry picture in my parents’ New York Times of some nutjob who strung a wire from one Twin Tower to the other and walked across it.
That nutjob was Philippe Petit and he was an acrobat, provocateur, performance artist, and utterly magnetic life force. In Man on Wire, filmmaker James Marsh chronicles Petit’s death-defying adventure—and his devoted band of accomplices (some in love with Philippe, some in love with adventure, others simply bored), who helped make this high-wire feat possible.
Filmed almost like a heist film—the Twin Towers were still being built at the time (1974) and, while construction crews came and went, security was high—the film uses a remarkable mix of historic footage (much shot by Petit and his crew), sly re-enactments (not distracting, I promise), and present-day interviews (virtually the entire crew is alive today, including Philippe, who tells a story almost as deftly as he crosses a wire) to recreate the events. When Petit finally does his mid-air dance, you experience a cathartic mixture of relief, awe, and elation. It’s a stunner.