Man on a Wire (2008)

From Less Than Great Heights

I think I’m just disappointed. The image of a man balancing precariously between the towers of the World Trade Center seemed pregnant with such promise. I dreamed of a documentary focused on what drives a man to such daring, deathly lengths. I imagined something akin to The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner or even The Devil at Your Heels. Instead, Man on Wire plays like a deflated heist film.

Philippe Petit‘s tightrope walk between the towers of the World Trade Center may have been the ‘artistic crime of the century’, but there is not enough filmed or photographed evidence. Man On Wire is constructed like a heist film, but there is no tension, we know the outcome and are now forced to hear a rotating cast of individuals share less than rivoting, technical details. Too much of the film balances on overly manufactured interviews and poorly conceived re-enactments. As a whole the film, expresses its story in about six different styles, most of which do not gel with one another. For a story about a man so focused and so determined, the look of Man on Wire is scattershot.

James Marsh tried this mixture of archival and re-enactments in Wisconsin Death Trip . That too was less than successful. So, I should not have really been surprised at these results. I guess I’m more shocked at how many people like this film. Its seems that of those I know, the ones who like it watch documentaries and the ones who don’t like it make them.


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