Google the definition of “obsession” and one of the results you’ll return is: “The domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire.” What you should probably be reading is the name “Philippe Petit”, the Frenchman whose high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers on August 7 1974 forms the basis of 2008’s Man on Wire.
Petit’s dream of breaking into the World Trade Center, smuggling metres of wire to the top and suspending it between the towers is covered in this documentary with incredible detail, home video footage of the planning process being presented alongside dramatised reconstructions of the actual walk.
Petit’s magnetic personality is obvious throughout, his excitement enough to pull the viewer onwards in what could potentially be a dull series of talking heads.
Interviewed alongside Petit are members of his heist team, men and women from around the globe who converged on New York due to the inspirational words of their leader. A nice touch here is that these collaborators are introduced on-screen with their alter-egos appearing under their names, reinforcing the heist film nature of the story.
I was unfortunate enough to miss this film on its various screenings at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, but those who had seen it spoke highly of the drama and sheer spectacle on display. I’m glad to say they were spot-on.
While the build-up to the attempt may be intoxicating, what’s even more impressive is that no footage of the walk actually exists. Who’d have thought that still photos of a man walking on a wire could be more exciting than much of the cinematic output available in the multiplexes last year?
Accompanied by a rousing score, Man on Wire is a testament to the dedication of one man, a must-see film for anyone with an interest in what can be done when you put your mind to it.
Talking viewers through the film is director James Marsh, producer Simon Chinn and Executive Producer Jonathan Hewes who provide an interesting slant on the assembly of the film. There’s also additional interview footage with Phillipe Petit, an animated short and a short film showing a Sydney Harbour Bridge Crossing.
Certificate 12, 90mins approx, Blu-ray RRP £24.99. Audio: Stereo 2.0