Directed by: James Marsh / 2008
With all due respect to the lives lost, as well as the impact of the tragic event that was the 911 terrorist attacks, one can’t help but be impressed on not only the level of preparation and commitment for devising such a plan, but also actually following thru. However, many men crafting plans to crash planes into buildings, doesn’t hold a mad-genius match to one man walking between them on a wire. “Man on Wire” rewinds nearly thirty years before that black Tuesday in September to a misty day in 1974 when the newborn Twin Towers’ only visible threat in the sky was the determination and passion of a talented French wire walker. After months of thorough planning and commitment Philippe Petit accomplished his dream by doing the unthinkable, crossing between the top of The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers not once, but eight times.
As a youngster, and over a decade after Petit’s death-defying marvel, I remember a certain myth to this hand-me-down tale and responding with a, “Nu-uh…NO way. That didn’t happen!” Back in those days of grade school hear-say and pre-Wickipedia.com (and my lack of library research care) I just couldn’t believe that a human being was crazy enough to do that and especially without a net or licensing agreement with Barnum & Bailey and/or a Spider-Man costume. Pushing thirty I’m now realizing that the people who actually enjoy slaving away their lives inside of tall buildings are the crazy ones. Philippe Petit may be off the rocker, so to speak, but he’s got a unique and mad blazing fire set to his rocker. OK, so it might be crazy to some but even though I cling for dear life to the banister when I climb to the second story of my home, I still find Petit’s life-on-the-edge story to be extremely inspiring in a Timothy Treadwell live with grizzly bears sort of way. In fact, I’m surprised that Werner Herzog wasn’t right there in ’74 with Petit as the two seem like they’d be right up each other’s mad-genius loving alley.
Sadly, but not shocking, after such a magnificently beautiful and life-time achievement, Petit was hammered by American police and press with cuffs and questions of “Why?” and was even submitted for a full psychiatric exam. Thankfully this quickly passed as his trespassing and disorderly conduct charges were exchanged for community performance service and immediate world-wide fame and recognition. “Man on Wire” shows the insane planning and group effort it took for Petit to cross his dream between the towers by way of interviews, archival footage and startling re-creations. It not only celebrates a one-of-a-kind achievement and living talent, but also pays tribute to the once great World Trade Center skyscrapers, resurrecting their strong-hold that stood, and still stand symbolically, for many a dream and life.