An Oscar-Winning Documentary About a Spectacular Stunt
Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, Man on Wire (2008) is an absorbing film about a daredevil who walked on a cable suspended between quarter-mile-high skyscrapers. There was no safety net, and he was not tethered to anything. The wirewalker spent roughly 45 minutes cavorting on the cable, and when he finally returned to safety, there were police waiting who immediately put him in handcuffs.
The title of the documentary is taken from police paperwork regarding the 1974 incident where a street performer walked a cable he had illegally placed between the tops of the Twin Towers of Manhattan's World Trade Center. The film recounts many of the details behind the caper, and the story is both fascinating and exhilarating.
The "man on wire" referred to in the police document was Philippe Petit, a 24-year-old Frenchman who had spent six years dreaming, planning and preparing. Petit assembled a ragtag team of confederates and sneaked hundreds of pounds of equipment into the not-quite-completed Twin Towers. Starting out with a bow and arrow and a fishing line, he managed to span the gap between the towers with a steel cable and supporting guy wires. But what sticks in the mind are Petit's nearly superhuman powers of concentration and his exquisite sense of balance.
In Man on Wire, documentarian James Marsh has created an elegant film, brilliantly capturing the notion that every human being balances precariously over the void. He wisely chose not to remind viewers that the fate of the Twin Towers was to be destroyed in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.
DVD Bonus Materials
The Man on Wire DVD contains three video extras with a total runtime of 43 minutes, and all are worth watching.
The best is the 20-minute documentary "Sydney Harbor Bridge Crossing," which is about how the 23-year-old Petit went to Australia in 1973 and wire-walked between the pylons of a large, busy bridge. There are some unforgettable shots with the famous Sydney Opera House in the background. The short documentary also gives the flavor of Petit's street performances, which included juggling, unicycling and magic tricks, in addition to tightrope walking.
Another worthwhile bonus material is the 13-minute "Philippe Petit Interview." Here he expresses his belief that one should live life intensely, and he makes it clear he views his wire-walking exploits as a form of art. He claims his income from street performances was sufficient to provide most of the money for his adventures. Also, Petit seems not entirely happy with the documentary's handling of his relationship with his girlfriend and his Twin Towers collaborators.
The third DVD extra is the animated 10-minute "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal. Although suitable for children, adults will enjoy it as well. According to this short, boys jerked Petit's wire while he was performing in New York's Central Park and caused him to lose his balance, although he was able to catch himself and avoid falling completely off.
Below I have listed all the details for the Man on Wire DVD.
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Feature Film Runtime: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Some Sexuality, Nudity and Drug Use
Widescreen (1.78:1), Color
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Sydney Harbor Bridge Crossing (20 min.)
Philippe Petit Interview (13 min.)
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (10 min.)