I rarely see movies in the theaters. I don't know why, but I've been that way all my life. One of my ex-boyfriends used to describe me to his friends as "the one who's never seen any movies." Lately, my reasons for not seeing movies include the cost of hiring a sitter and the migraines I get from any movies with loud sounds and bright lights.
Occasionally, however, a movie comes along that I make a point of seeing. Man on Wire is one of those movies. I talked two friends into going, but I would have seen it even if I didn't have any company. Here's my review, in four words - GO.SEE.THIS.MOVIE.
It's a documentary about Phillipe Petit, the wirewalker, who, with the help of a band of merry men, strung a cable between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent 45 minutes walking back and forth, 110 stories above the ground.
The movie chronicles Petit's other exploits - walking between the two towers of Notre Dame and between the stanchion towers of the Sydney Harbor Bridge - as well as his preparations for the WTC walk. Petit and his co-conspirators filmed a lot of their preparations, which the movie includes. When there isn't first-hand footage, the movie uses goofy re-enactments that are actually a lot of fun.
Petit retells a lot of the story, and the filmmakers struck gold when they picked him as a subject. In his 60s, at least, he is still as energetic and enthusiastic in his retelling as he was in the home movies taken in the '70s. The film includes interviews with the other conspirators, and they are just as much fun, if a little more contemplative than Petit. They seemed to grasp, in retrospect, just how badly it could have turned out. Two of them refused to take part at the last minute because they were too afraid that they were sending their friend to his death. The interviews alone are worth the price of admission.
Watching Petit and his compatriots, I couldn't help but wonder that they pulled it off. They were just such numbskulls most of the time. One of the American helpers admitted to being stoned when he showed up on the day they set everything up.
The lack of real security was also amazing. Petit and his crew made counterfeit ID badges and basically strolled right in to the building and took the freight elevators to the top floor and then walked the rest of the way. They did have to hide out from security guards, but other than that, no one noticed them - not even during all their reconnaissance trips in the months leading up to the walk when they climbed all over the roof, taking pictures of everything.
Some of the footage included in the movie is just amazing, like the shots of Petit actually doing his walk. There was one shot from street level looking up at Petit; he just shows up as this little tiny dot moving back and forth. And the filmmakers included a picture that Petit or someone from his crew took looking straight down to the street. The idea that Petit stepped out on a wire 110 stories in the air is just beyond belief.
There is no mention of September 11 in the movie, which is how it should be. But you can't help but be reminded of what eventually happened while watching the footage of the construction of the towers. Seeing the big beams being put into place was all too reminiscent of seeing them being lifted out of the rubble pile, twisted and scorched.
When the movie ended I was struck at the audience's silence. No one moved or spoke while the credits rolled. I've never seen that happen in a movie before. I think we were all just so absorbed in the magic of the movie that we didn't want to leave the theater.