“Man on Wire” is probably my favorite documentary that I have ever seen. It recounts the story of an infamous 1974 crime that happened to be one of the greatest and bravest “circus” feats of all time. The documentary tells the story of Philippe Petit (through his own words and those of his team) as he dreamt of, planned, and finally executed a plan to walk a tight rope from the top of one World Trade Center Tower to the other.
When I first heard of this story, I immediately looked it up on Wikipedia. I mean, those towers were 110+ stories and 1340 feet tall. How was this remotely possible and how did he not die? The documentary is absolutely fascinating. It begins by explaining Petit’s interest/passion/obsession with tight rope walking. It absolutely consumed him and he referenced several times the kind of quixotic relationship he had with it.
Petit grew up in France and his first official stunt that made him notorious was a tight rope walk between the towers of Notre Dame. He followed that stunt up with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and after traveling to New York and learning of the plans to build the World Trade Center, his life’s mission was set.
Before the builders were even breaking ground, Petit started dreaming and raising interest among his friends and followers about this goal. The documentary follows the whole process and includes the personal recollections of every member of his team. The story really picks up when the buildings were nearing completion and uses theatric reenactments showing his team breaking into the buildings and hiding from the construction teams/guards to do research.
Of course, the most fascinating portion of the film takes place when Petit finally attempts his feat. Thankfully, his team took dozens and dozens of pictures of him doing the impossible and they will take your breath away and make you thankful that you are seated safely wherever you are reading this blog.
This film is absolutely a “must see.” When I think about what these Towers stood for in America and how they were brought down by terrorism, there is an element of extreme sadness, of pride for what we were able to achieve by building the Trade Center, and intense patriotism that add something profound to the story.