Man on Wire

 

Man on Wire

**1/2

 

On the morning of August 7th, 1974, a daring young man named Philippe Petit awed the world when he walked on a tight rope between the Twin Towers in New York City.

The documentary film “Man on Wire” tells the story of how and why this remarkable feat was accomplished.

The star of the movie isn’t the Twin Towers. It is the curious little Frenchman who crossed them. Philippe Petit is a very likable, unique individual.

Philippe was a young man with natural leadership abilities and an ability to inspire action in others. But he had little ego and no desire for power.

He had a serious rebellious streak, but no desire to hurt or to change anyone. He had a drive to create ambitious art, but not an ounce of pretension.

(Except for his knack for incredibly dangerous stunts), Philippe is exactly the kind of person that a parent would want to raise: a positive soul with a passion for life who finds immense joy in the innocent pleasures of the world.

Though “Man on Wire” never explicitly mentions September 11th, the picture naturally makes you remember what the World Trade Center meant to you, and to the world.

It’s amazing to think about the power that those majestic buildings had on humanity. The Twin Towers inspired some people to perform unimaginable feats of creativity and daring. And they inspired other people to commit unconscionable acts of hatefulness and evil.

While “Man on Wire” is certainly thought-provoking, it isn’t completely entertaining. I mean, it is the story of a single piece of performance art that took 45 minutes to perform. That isn’t enough substance to justify a feature length film. “Man on Wire” probably would have worked better as an hour-long documentary on the Discovery Channel.

There is far too much screen time spent documenting the planning stages of the event in unnecessary detail. Does anyone really care how long Philippe and his buddy spent huddled under a tarp while suspicious security guards searched for them? Does anyone really want to meet the New York crazies who Philippe drafted to do the grunt work of setting up the high wire? Many of the interviews are repetitive and should have been edited out.

The only topic I would like to have learned a little more about is Philippe’s life outside of tight rope walking. We never even learn what he does for a living. How on earth did he get enough money and spare time to fly across the Atlantic a half dozen times planning out his big stunt? I have to assume that Philippe had rich parents, but the movie never lets us in on the secret.

I have nothing bad to say about Philippe Petit: the innocent, fearless man who inspired “Man on Wire.” The film itself is not that impressive, however. There isn’t nearly enough going on to fill 90 minutes of screen time. I do not recommend it.

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