The daring escapades of Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist who walked across the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, have already been grippingly portrayed on the big screen quite recently in James Marsh’s 2008 Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, so for a narrative feature to successfully tackle the same subject just a few years later is something of a surprise. Thankfully, the decision to essentially treat the story as a heist film helps to keep things both fresh and cinematic, although some peculiar creative decisions and the inconvenient truths of some of the subject matter end up being somewhat distracting.

The main draw anyone has for seeing the film is its obvious central set-piece, and in that sense it completely delivers. The wire-walk is handled exceptionally well, inventively utilising its 3D and IMAX formats while cleverly combining subtle CGI with ingenious camera work – you’d expect nothing less from Robert Zemeckis, who has always managed special effects with verve and intelligence throughout his career. What doesn’t work so well is the decision to structure the story around some bizarre straight-to-camera explanatory sequences from its lead, oddly delivered from the Statue of Liberty, and even with some of the less complimentary aspects of the tale omitted (Petit almost immediately cheated on his loyal partner having finished his stunt), there’s no escaping the fact that the protagonist was a bit of a prick.

A re-telling of the incredible real life events already told in the documentary Man on Wire7
Re-framing things as an effective heist thriller8
The main set-piece high-wire walk is brilliantly presented9
Having the lead bizarrely explain everything to camera in fantasy sequences5
The main character is really rather insufferable4
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the named female characters talk to each other
7Overall Score

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.