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Aug 25, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Man on Wire

After seeing Man on Wire, I find myself thinking it somewhat ironic (like rain on your wedding day, of course) that this summer has been dominated mostly by two "superhero" films - Iron Man and The Dark Knight. As it turns out, there's a nonfiction superhero movie, and it's playing right now at your local indie theater.

Like all superheroes, Phillippe Petit has his flaws. Just as Batman and Spider-Man found themselves in the difficult position of pushing their loved ones away at the expense of their "duty," so too did Petit. Though his is not so much a duty as an obsession (a duty in his eyes, no doubt), the French funambulist saw news of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center being built in the late 60s and knew immediately that his destiny was to tightrope between them. Just as the comic book heroes battles' and secret identities cost them friendships and lovers lost, so too did Petit's fantastic dreams.

Having already walked between the modest "towers" of Notre Dame in Paris and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, Petit was no stranger to public displays of his craft, nor to the disapproving eye of the local police forces, but that was no deterrent. Playing to this point, director James Marsh wisely unfolds the story as if this were Inside Man 2.0, once again with no money being taken. Petit and several others recount the job in intricate detail, from inspiration to planning to execution, with recreated scenes of the act taking place and flashbacks to earlier points in the timeline. The amount of drama that Marsh creates is all the more impressive, considering the fact that the interviews with a present-day Petit and the shot on the poster more than give the ending away to those that might be in the dark in regards to the outcome.

Superior storytelling aside, I found myself in awe (and nearly in tears) at the beauty and spectacle of Petit's feats, though he's nearly just as impressive from 20 feet off the ground as he is from 1,350. As someone not yet born at the time of his highwire hijinks (and as someone mostly unfamiliar with funambulism in general), I was in awe of his skills. Petit does not just walk across a wire, he owns it, traipsing back and forth, juggling - I'd tell you more, but it really must be seen to do it justice. Throw in the insane heights and the lack of any safety nets, and you'll truly see what his superpowers are.

Man on Wire is filmmaking at its best. An excellent soundtrack (specifically the use of Satie's "Gymnopedie"), a charismatic star, quirky role players and the story of an ordinary man doing extraordinary things combine to form a film that doesn't just inspire (a word thrown around too easily) but will significantly affect you. On too many occasions, I found myself not only emotionally hit watching Petit perform, but left looking like a mouth-breather, chin dropped and blissfully idiotic.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You're the best...around!"


17 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Man on Wire"

WaywardJam said...

My interest in this was non-existent at best. Sounds like I need to be on the look out for this at the Indie theater.

Nayana Anthony said...

Saw it, loved it. And I might throw you a little link luvin'.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I say without hesitation that this is one of the best films of the year.

Daniel G. said...

If I was in any way responsible for your decision to see this, it would be one of my biggest achievements of the year.

Scene of the year with Satie's piece. Scene of the year.

Fletch said...

Wayne - see it. Know it. Love it.

Nayana - I love link love. I've been trying to think of creative ways to give it, but ain't coming up with anything wildly brilliant as of yet. In time...

Shannon - I agree 100%. It shot either pretty close to or at the top for me.

Daniel - yes, take some credit. I trust your opinions over just about any others, so your review definitely played a part.

Daniel G. said...

Nice! I've influenced society in some way!

Dead Pan said...

I am seriously dying to see this film, but it isn't playing anywhere near me. Not even the local art house has had a single showing of it. I am much more excited for this than I was for any summer blockbuster, for real son.

Fox said...

I'd really like to see this, but my serious fear of heights is asking me to wait for the DVD so I can experience less fear on a smaller screen.

I still can't get through the first sequence of Cliffhanger w/o my knees shaking.

Fletch said...

Good to hear, Shawn. Patience - hopefully it'll be there soon.

Fox, I'm not bothered much at all by heights (at least not on screen), but if I were to gauge Cliffhanger and MoW on a 1-10 vertigo scale (with 10 being the worst), I'd give Cliffhanger probably a 7 and MoW a 3 or 4. Though Daniel or Nayana ought to give a second opinion...

Nayana Anthony said...

MoW was about a 3. Not a whole lot of vertigo. But don't ever see Everest in IMAX.

Daniel G. said...

I've got no problems with heights to this point in my life, but I'll admit some of those peeking-over-the-edge moments here were a little harrowing. The fact is, though, you're so hypnotized by Petit on the wire, and the music, that the height doesn't even come into the equation.

Nayana Anthony said...

You're right. I didn't really think about the height until after I left the theater. Then it was like, holy @#%!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I'm not the best with heights, and I sat in the front row, centre. It was a little rough at times but I made it through!

Chivid said...

No way I'm seeing this. I hate heights. That poster made me queasy enough.

Fletch said...

"You're the best...around," people!

How many movies do I give that to?!?

(To save anyone from looking - I've given it to 3 films this year: this one, TDK, and Wall*E. Last year, I gave it to Paris, Je t'aime and a special case best/worst awarding to Southland Tales. That's it. The current rating system started in 5/07.)

Mrs Fletch said...

@ Fox - I'm one of those people who gets dizzy - vertigo - motion sickness at almost any movie. All they have to do is move the camera the wrong way and whoop - there I go! This movie didn't really have that effect, only once did I find myself spinning while sitting absolutely still. Man On Wire is a beautiful movie that really should be seen on the big screen if you have the chance.

Nick Plowman said...

I am still dying to see this…I must be the only loser on the planet who has not :(