Of all the movies that are showing up on Top Ten lists this year, one odd one seems to be cropping up here and there with more regularity than what would be expected. Man on Wire, about a Frenchman who likes to walk on tightropes, is not the kind of film you'd expect to be a candidate for such exclusive lists, no matter how interesting the concept. Amazingly, Man of Wire is an engaging, entertaining and enthralling documentary that will appeal even to people who don't like documentaries.
Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh, follows Philippe Petite, the Lance Armstrong of tightrope walking. The man was born to walk on tight little cables with no harness, and was determined to push himself further and further. At one point, he snuck onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge and walked across a cable. That sounds crazy to me, but that's nothing. Philippe's real goal? Sneak onto the roof of the World Trade Center, somehow string a cable between the two gigantic buildings, and then walk across it before the authorities can stop him.
Frankly, Petite may have a few screws loose, but that also makes him a fascinating subject. The man, thankfully, is still well alive and really likes interviews. He tells his story with conviction, enthusiasm and downright euphoria, almost to the point where you have to question whether the guy is real. But he is real, and he bounces around his interview as if he's 20 again.
Yes, he's "only" a tightrope walker, but he still has an interesting story to tell. There aren't many events that truly define him, yet the ones that do are noteworthy. His character alone is entertaining; Marsh clearly hit the jackpot. Speaking of Marsh, the director took this film well beyond what Man on Wire could have been. A synergy of music, photographs, video footage, interviews and historical recreations, Man on Wire is one of the most dynamic documentaries in recent memory.
Man on Wire might not sound like the typical documentary, and it isn't. Its only fault is that it doesn't broach a subject that has more significance - such as torture in Iraq - but it's still an incredible piece of work. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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