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Film: Man on Wire
Just don't look down.

"I observed the tightrope 'dancer'—because you couldn't call him a 'walker'—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire... And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle... He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again."
Sgt. Daniels, Port Authority Police Department

Man on Wire is a Documentary by James Marsh released in 2008. It depicts the planning and execution of the historic 1974 Twin Tower tightrope walk.

On August 7, 1974, at 7:15 a.m., French tightrope artist Philippe Petit, having hung a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center, proceeded to walk on it—with no harness nor any form of security. For 45 minutes, while a crowd of incredulous onlookers watched, Petit walked a total of eight times from one tower to the other. He also ran, jumped, sat and lay down on the wire to watch the sky. Then he gave himself in to the police.

Using archival footage, reenactments and interviews, the film deliberately uses the narrative methods of a heist movie, since the preparations had to be conducted illegally by a small team and a great attention to detail was required.

A dramatization of the events detailed entitled The Walk directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit will be released in 2015.

Watch the trailer here.

Contains examples of:

  • Contrast Montage: Photos of Petit from childhood to teenagehood are contrasted with footage of the World Trade Center at various stages of construction.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Petit's team wore the uniforms of delivery crewmen in order to get past security.
  • Don't Look Down: Intentionally averted; Petit explicitly looks down when on the wire, since it's a once-in-a-lifetime view.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Justified, since Petit uses famous architectural landmarks to pull his tightrope walking stunts. Apart from Notre-Dame in Paris and the World Trade Center, he also used Sydney Harbour Bridge, in sight of the Opera House.
  • In Harm's Way: Petit enjoys putting himself in life-threatening situations for the sheer thrill of it. "If I die, what a beautiful death!"
  • Magnetic Hero: Downplayed by Petit; his accomplices who weren't his friends beforehand are all drawn to his charisma and vision. Ultimately subverted and deconstructed—several of them only wanted the thrill of helping and abandon the plan when things get hairy. The stunt ultimately costs him his friends and girlfriend.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: The reconstitution of August 6, 1974, begins on a close-up of a black-and-white TV which shows a press conference by Richard Nixon speaking his iconic "I am not a crook" line.
  • Obfuscating Disability: After accidentally injuring his foot, Petit realizes that a man in crutches doesn't arise suspicion, and after his injury has healed he keeps walking in crutches for some time in order to fool security.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Believe it or not, but when Petit walked between the towers, his team forgot to turn on the cameras, so that only still pictures of the feat exist.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Petit's team.
  • Reality Subtext: Very deliberately averted. The whole documentary is about something dramatic that took place at the World Trade Center. But at no point is the towers' later fate brought up.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Marsh recycles scores by Michael Nyman originally composed for Drowning by Numbers, The Draughtsman's Contract, The Piano and other films.
  • Red-Headed Hero
  • The Seventies: There is no doubt which decade you're in. Petit's outfit even included bell-bottom pants.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The climactic wire walk takes place over a quiet piano piece by Erik Satie.
  • Title Drop: The film title comes from the police report of Petit's performance.


The Last King of ScotlandThe SeventiesMilk
Mamma Mia!Films of 2005 - 2009 Marley and Me

alternative title(s): Man On Wire
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