In this stranger than fiction documentary, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit steps out on a wire suspended 1,350 feet above ground between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the summer of 1974. He not only strolls across the cable, but lies down and sits on it as well, and all without a net, dazzling hundreds of New Yorkers on a sunny summer day.
Director James Marsh ("The King") mixes modern re-enactments with archival footage so you can hardly tell where fact ends and docudrama begins. Starting with Petit's interest in what is commonly called tight-rope walking, starting at an early age, and continuing with his walks across the Notre Dame cathedral in his native Paris and across the Sydney Bridge towers in Australia. Filmed much like a caper movie, "Man on Wire" details the intricate planning that went into getting onto the roofs of the World Trade Center. The actual walk between the Twin Towers is surprisingly, among the least thrilling parts of the film. But the cops-and-robbers activity is filled with both humor and suspense, even through we are aware of how it all turned out - with Petit's arrest and most unusual plea bargain that allowed him to stay out of jail for "disturbing the peace."
Petit's interview was filmed when he was 59-years-old, and the veteran of those daredevil antics excitedly speaks to the camera in perfect English with no hint of an accent. He obviously had little interest in money, but surely was searching for publicity as he demonstrates all his skill and daring in this most dramatic fashion.
Adding texture to the film, composer Michael Nyman ("The Piano") utilizes a variety of musical themes to add color to the thrilling footage ranging from Eric Satie's familiar Gymnopedie No. 1 and Greig's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," to his own dramatic compositions. This fascinating portrait of a truly remarkable man is a tremendously entertaining documentary.