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Review: Man on Wire


At the beginning of James Marsh’s latest film, ‘Man on Wire,’ you know three things for certain.

1)    Philippe Pettit is still alive.
2)    You will never truly understand Philippe Pettit.
3)    Philippe Pettit is crazy.

And yet, knowing these things, the film is one of the most suspenseful, exciting and uplifting film I’ve seen this year.

Pettit is a tight-rope walker, intrigued by the mere idea of the World Trade Center as a teenager.  He practices.  He learns to juggle and entertains crowds in Paris.  He walks between the two towers of Notre Dame.  He walks between one of the most recognizable bridges in Australia.  However, all of these are warm-ups.  His goal is singular: it’s the World Trade Center.

Pettit fell in love with the towers as soon as they were unveiled and he had to wait for them to be built before he could achieve his dream.  However, every dream is not without its challenges.  In Pettit’s case, it’s the fact that none of the people who could authorize such a stunt never would.  So Pettit knows that he will have to elude the officials and authorities as he plans and executes his dream.

To say anything else is to give away the joy contained in the film.  Philippe Pettit is an incredibly interesting individual who inspires you to try to live out your dreams.  ‘Ok, so let’s accept that this is impossible,’ Pettit says at one point, ‘let’s now go from there.’  It is this refusal to accept people telling him that he and his ideas are crazy is so impressive.  He is a character that could be watched by himself on camera for 90 minutes, but director James Marsh does more.

The film is filled with re-creations of Pettit’s insane goal.  While I’m not a large fan of such things, this is so well done and perfectly set into the film, it works beautifully.

I’m going to stop here.  Simply put, this film needs to be seen to believed.  So many documentaries focus on sad and depressing stories.  While these tales need to be told, it is always refreshing to see a film that encourages such impracticalities and insanities.  ‘Man on Wire,’ encourages the dreamers and idealists, which is necessary.  There are already too few of them to go around.  -Sam

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