28 February 2010

Review: "Man on Wire"

I did it! I accomplished a goal, of sorts. One week after watching The Cove and vowing to watch more documentaries I have watched another! The documentary I am referring to is Man on Wire, the colossally entertaining film chronicling Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. The film uses recent interviews with the parties involved, reenactments of the events, and also rare footage and photographs from the events leading up August 7, 1974. The film was directed by James Marsh, who may be known in some small film circles for his 2005 film The King, which starred Gael Garcia Bernal. Man on Wire was screened at various film festivals, including the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury and Audience awards. It was released to critical acclaim in 2008, and currently holds a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes, where it is currently the website's second-best reviewed film, behind only Toy Story 2. Man on Wire is exhilarating and intense, filmed like a crime thriller, and is a film worthy of its Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The film presents the events leading up to Philippe Petit's daring high-wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. In interviews with Petit, his former friends and accomplices and his girlfriend, we learn that Petit had hatched the idea when he had first learned of the two towers. He believed that the towers were built for him to complete the stunt. We watch Petit complete a similar student in New Zealand -- albeit not as high up in the air! Philippe Petit and his team spent a considerable amount of time practicing and preparing. They were required to sneak into the World Trade Center with all their equipment and be able to set up without attracting attention from the security guards. At one point the team even returned to France, believing that their plan had not yet been perfected. Everyone is aware that Petit accomplished his task, and the film's poster even depicts him walking between the two towers, but the film is not about whether or not he is successful but how he reached that point.

Man on Wire is absolutely a thrilling film worthy of all its accolades. I was obviously swayed by its Academy Award victory -- though it is not easy finding obscure documentaries in Blockbuster. This is why I would love for Netflix to be available in Canada! My only complaint is that the reenactments often felt too fake and I did not quite feel the tension that would have existed. Philippe Petit is quite an interesting man, and I am still unsure of whether he understood or not that his actions were illegal. Regardless, the film presented the events with a chilling sense of suspense which made me wish I had witnessed it with my own eyes.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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