Man on Wire - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Man on Wire Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 8, 2014
A magnificent feat told by its own participants. Emotionally engaging and exhilarating.
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2013
A stuntman/performer dreams up a stunt impossible to ignore in the modern day world full of been there, done that. True enough, I wondered what's the big deal, "a guy on a tightrope", blah, blah, blah, yada, yada. Fueling these thoughts, the man himself, Monsieur Petit, seems a shameless attention hog, one whom it inadvertently pleases one to ignor. But then, the stunt itself ... jaw droppingly, utterly un-friggen-believable! See it.
Super Reviewer
½ August 8, 2010
A beatific documentary about a sole subject, this film was basically all about the feat that Petite pulled off, which comes off as sentimental and assured. Still, I would have liked to see a broader view of the accomplishment, one that possibly exaggerated Petite's abilities, showed more backstory, and the way he became a wire walker. Not much is shown on Petite's abilities other than his illegal yet masterful attempts at walking across some of the most famous locations in the world. The subject of the entire documentary wasn't given credence to showcase himself, except in interviews. In said interviews he comes off as childish, imaginative, and has a memory like a steel trap. Instead of truly looking into the depth of the subject the film uses interviews, and those dowdy recreations that pop up on episodes of America's Most Wanted. Though I found the footage of him walking on the wire truly ingratiating and just as feel good as they were purposing it to be, it didn't reel me in with anything all too interesting or new. Beside that the aftermath of the event wasn't shown in a true light and was further romanticized by Petite's ex, who viewed his infidelity as kismet rather than the delusions of a newly made icon. Most of the film covers the buildup to the event, assembling the crew, getting past security, and rigging the equipment up on the top floors of the newly created World Trade Center towers. It varies between flashbacks and interviews and that becomes quite confusing and annoying to boot. Really, it has its moments and was touching at times, but otherwise it was just wishy washy and slightly unpleasant.
Super Reviewer
January 16, 2012
In the tradition of a heist film, this documentary depicts a high-wire artist's attempt at walking between the Twin Towers.
Made in 2008, Man on Wire elides all discussion of 9/11, and even though this was probably better for the film -- after all, what can they really say of any importance? -- watching Philippe Petit and his cohorts break into the WTC with enough equipment to set up their wire made me think that I was watching what could have been a terrorist attack instead of a crazy, effervescent Frenchman with a God complex. The film might have made me uncomfortable, but I think it's better to say that I was uncomfortable watching it.
Petit is nuts. But from a distance, he's fun to watch. I think my favorite moment was when, describing how he was looking for a small fishing wire in the dark, Petit said -- as though this is the most reasonable thing to do, right out of the "How to Find Fishing Wire in the Dark" manual, -- "I stripped naked so that with all my body I could feel for the wire." Who thinks that? Next time I lose my keys in my office, I'll give it a try.
Other critics have called the film's climax "exhilarating" and said that the film's result takes on an adventure-movie level of suspense, and though I didn't feel this, I did find the film as a whole to be entertaining and fun but not with much sophistication. The "follow your dreams" mantra that provides the film's moral center feels contrived, like something out of a Cracker Jack box.
Overall, I liked Man on Wire, and now that there are movie-goers too young to fully remember 9/11, this documentary may serve as a tribute to buildings' existence rather than a reminder of their destruction.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2012
Philippe Petit: If I die, what a beautiful death! 

"1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century."

Wow, I was completely taken aback by Man on Wire. I loved the creativity by the director, James Marsh. He made the movie feel less like a documentary and more like a thriller in the way he presented it. I loved the black and white reenactments throughout. It added much more depth to the story we were listening to. The first part of the movie where the people involved in helping Philippe, and Philippe himself talked about the van ride to the towers felt so much like a bank robbery. Then later in the film, I was thrilled to find out that Philippe looked at it in the exact same way. Everything they were doing was like a heist. They had to scout out the buildings, make fake I.D. cards, sneak into the building at night, and sneak by guards. The only difference between this and a heist is the end result. 

Man on Wire is a fabulous documentary on a compelling man, Philippe Petit, and his dream to tightrope between the World Trade Centers. Why? There is no why. He was sitting in a dentist office, reading a magazine, where he saw a picture of what the towers would look like when they were finished and fell in love with the idea. Philippe is a man of extreme enthusiasm, excitement, and concentration. He's so energetic, always running around and constantly laughing and smiling. But when he gets on a rope, his face turns to stone and he is in a state of the deepest concentration you are likely to see. 

It's impossible to not be astonished by what he did. Watching him from the ground, a speck of color, hovering in the sky would have been amazing. There is a moment in the movie where he admits that when he first saw them, he said it's impossible, but let's get to work. That's his attitude. He just wants to walk between the towers, no matter what the risk. Even if he dies, he will go out doing what he loves and that's beautiful. It doesn't hurt that he also had the support of many people. His friends wanted to see him out on that wire just as much as he did. That's pretty obvious when we listen to their interviews and watch them begin to tear up when talking about it. This wasn't just Philippe; he couldn't have done it by himself. In the end, it was for everyone involved.

I expected this to be great from the perfect reviews, which hardly ever happens. What I didn't expect was for the movie do be so beautiful. It's obvious going in that the story is going to be an engrossing one. But Marsh's skills take the story to a whole new level and this documentary to a whole new level. I love documentaries and watch them frequently, and this is a new favorite of mine.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2011
Exciting, compelling and emotional.
Super Reviewer
September 11, 2011
Man on Wire has got to be one of the best documentaries that I have seen in quite some time. The film surrounds tight rope walker Philippe Petit who walked between the two World Trade Centre Towers. I was very enthralled by this documentary and I found it very fascinating. The topic itself is filled with wonder and makes you ask several questions about the act that Petit undertook. This is a phenomenal film about courage and determination. The result is one of the most spectacular tight rope walks of the 20th Century. This film recounts the events of the famous walk. I loved the film and it really was moving to see and I admire Philippe Petit's courage to undertake such a crazy venture. Though it was most certainly insanity, the act itself was very beautiful, and this is what Man on Wire captures so well. The beauty of the performance. Sure Petit is crazy for having done the walk, but like I said it was a beautiful act. Man on Wire is a terrific documentary. This is an inspiring story and really will move anyone who watches this incredible film. A flawless documentary, Man on Wire is a well crafted film that embodies the courage of one man to accomplish what he set out to do. A must see for everyone that loves inspirational true stories.
Super Reviewer
½ August 5, 2011
Tight rope walking in between the TWIN TOWERS!? Wow, awesome documentary.
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2008
The heist movie among the documentaries tells the story of Phillippe Petit walking on a tightrope between the twin towers in 1974. Which merely sounds like a artistic act of madness is additionally a logistic nightmare and, of course, illegal. The story of Petit's ambitions, the planning, the players and the plot, it's all presented so entertainingly and in a charming way, that you can't help but cheer for the little French man, who talks so enthusiastically. The Oscar awarded result is sometimes as exciting as a thriller and fascinating as well.
Super Reviewer
January 27, 2011
One of the best documentaries i've ever seen. Great film!
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2010
Some people's lives are just more interesting and eventful than the lives of others. They're compelled to do things that the rest of us may not even dream of doing. Man on Wire is the story of such a man.

The archival footage of Philippe was some of the most amazing video that I've ever seen, and it was by far my favorite part of this documentary. The rest of the movie was interesting enough, but it was hard to focus on his life history or the reenactments of his planning sessions with his friends, after seeing him walking on a thin wire suspended high over a bridge or Notre Dame. Man on Wire felt uneven because of how amazing the camera footage of his wire-walking was, but it was still a fascinating film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 19, 2010
An incredibly fascinating documentary about a man's passion and how he was able to accomplish walking on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974. This is an utterly brilliant film, it details it's subjects expertly and raises the suspension of the "big event" to a nearly unbearable degree. Petit is an unbelievable human being, one that is definitely crazy but is undoubtedly lovable and admirable. Just a great, great movie, and definitely one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long, long time.
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2010
This dude is a lunatique! Interesting story, but I didn't really dig the combination of modern interviews, archival footage and re-enactments. Made it too choppy for me. Still, some big thrills in there, especially considering you already know the ending.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2009
Utterly incredible. One of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. An enthralling story of one man defying all to carry out his epic dream.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2008
"To me, it's really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope."

A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century."

A real treat, especially for documentary lovers, this film will undoubtedly resonate for all of us around the anniversary of September 11th 2001. It tells of tightrope-walker Philippe Petit (the French have a wonderful word, funambule) and his obsession with conquering the Twin Towers. And yes, I do mean what you think I mean. Having strung a wire between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and then between those of the Sydney Harbour bridge, and proceeded to walk, kneel, lie down, turn around and juggle on them, Petit and his accomplices planned the spectacular and all but impossible challenge of doing the same for WTC North and South towers. It is of course illegal to do this sort of thing, but they had got away with it before. Interweaving documentary footage, reconstruction and talking head reminiscences of the participants ? Petit himself is infectiously enthusiastic ? Marsh fashions a film which tantalisingly revisits the progress of events on the day and then leaves us dangling (sorry) to go back and explain or amplify earlier events and preparations. Despite the security challenges, the dangers of cross winds, wire oscillation and tension, not to mention the difficulty of getting an extremely heavy length of cable up a hundred flights and getting it two hundred feet to the opposite tower, the group pulled it off. It's a breathtaking viewing experience, conveying something of the awe the event inspired in bystanders back in 1974, and this despite the lack of moving images depicting the coup itself.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2009
A great documentary about a weird man. It was interesting to see how the whole thing went down.It would have been great to have actual footage from one of the people who were there but the pictures do the job just as well.Even though it was a photo on a tv screen I still had a feeling of vertigo and dread for this man to be out there with nothing to save him if he fell.There is no way you could ever have gotten me on the roof much less on a wire out in the middle of nothing.Well done.
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2008
Documentary of French high wire artist, Philippe Petit, who made headlines around the world for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City on August 7, 1974. Meticulously documents the careful planning that went into mounting that awe inspiring walk. However it frustratingly lacks any footage of the actual event and glosses over the aftermath that ensured. Received the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Super Reviewer
½ December 4, 2008
Directed by: James Marsh.
Starring: Philippe Petit, Annie Allix, Jean-Louis Blondeau.

<< "If I die...what a beautiful death! To die in the exercise of your passion" >>

Remember a time where any decent movie goer could say that they just experienced a movie going experience like no other, an experience that rages all of your emotions for the entire stay and stays with you as you leave the theater. I think it is still safe to say that that kind of thing in this day and age is heard in moderation, with the way modern cinema is...but Man On Wire gives you that feeling so immensely, it's a movie worthy of whats being said of it.

"That's when I saw him on a cable. I had never seen concentration like that...and I think I never have to this day. And his face became this...ageless mask of concentration, I mean he had become like a was amazing"

Part real footage, part reenactment combined with present day interviews, the film has a surprisingly perfect structure for a documentary, especially when a simple story such as this is stretched out to a 90 minute feature. The feature begins as a counter balance of the two wonders being built alongside Philippe's early years, with his pre-mature daredevil days where he manages to wire walk between the buildings of Notre Dame and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge...with both times being arrested. The wonderment of this man is built perfectly and we laugh at how eccentric he really is. All the interviews are conceived wonderfully, capturing each personality as they really are, especially the gripping charisma of Anne's wonderment of it all and of course, Philippe.

Amongst his gripping interviews, we see Philippe throughout the plan, the way he and his team craft what is pretty much a crime, being the fact that it is obviously illegal. We study his planning and see how much work he puts into it all, he is really molded into the 3D character that he is.

Amongst the real footage and the interviews comes the reenactments, nicely and deftly placed and shot so well amongst every word said and every moment shown. There are clearly solid production values to the scenes but the nuances are there that balance with everything else shown and the film remains engrossing on every level.

I don't think everything that anyone is feeling can be said in a review for this film. I was left feeling fulfilled with this movie-going experience I just sat through. Man On Wire is many levels of wonderment. Its skillfully cut together and perfectly balanced throughout. It cuts through every one of your emotions with the right intentions and just shows us this simple story and its epic quality perfectly...and never again in a while will you feel such an experience as this. Simply perfect in its own way.


<< "To me, it's really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope." >>
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2009
I haven't seen many documentaries this year, but I have to say that this the best one I have seen. It's also one of the best movies I have seen this year period. The whole elaborate plan involved is amazing and I still can't believe that they pulled it off. I also loved the fact that the people involved still get emotional just talking about it. What's great about it is that there is also a lingering mark on their life not only because of the act itself, but also the effect it had on their lives afterward.
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