Story

Man on Wire tells the story of how Philippe Petit planned and carried out what has been called the greatest artistic crime of the 20th century. On 7 August 1974, Petit strung a 60-metre tightrope wire 450 metres above the ground between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and walked across it, nine times.

Through interviews and re-enactments, the movie depicts the relationships between Philippe and his then girl friend Annie Allix, close friend Jean-Louise Blondeau and co-conspirators David Forman, Barry Greenhouse, Jim Moore and Alan Welner. The movie shows archival footage of Philippe walking between the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and between the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Philippe and his co-conspirators describe how they spied for weeks on the Twin Towers, tricked their way in using fake ID cards and hauled nearly one ton of equipment to the top floor.

The movie contains no live footage of the walk or re-enactment of it. Instead, the event is represented through still images and commentary by Philippe and the team members. Following the walk Philippe is arrested, taken for psychiatric evaluation and then released. The media hail Philippe a hero. We hear accounts from eyewitnesses telling how watching Philippe walk the wire was a once-in-a-lifetime gift. The movie ends with the main characters discussing how both the event itself and the resulting fame caused the breakdown of friendships and relationships.

Themes

Dangerous stunts; illegal activity; relationship breakdown

Violence

  • Philippe is seen being arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Philippe talks about fearing that he will fall down stairs and break his neck after being arrested and led away by the police.
  • The movie includes brief images of a black and white 1940s film of gangsters robbing a bank with police shooting at the escaping bank robbers.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Over 8

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

There are a couple of mild sexual references in this movie. For example:

  • Philippe talks about how, after he was released by the police, a woman approached him and offered to be the first to ‘celebrate’ with him.
  • Philippe’s girlfriend talks about Philippe giving her flowers and love letters and about dating Philippe.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

There is some use of substances in this movie. For example:

  • There is a brief image of a man smoking a cigarette.
  • During an interview, a man talks about how he smoked pot (cannabis) everyday for 35 years. He says he was probably under the influence of the drug while he was assisting Philippe in his tightrope attempt.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including a brief image of Philippe and a woman in a hotel room naked. The woman is seen from the front and Philippe from behind. We see them running around a bed and the woman lying naked on top of the bed.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

Man on Wire is a documentary containing real and re-enacted footage. It is an entertaining and artistic adventure suited to a wide audience.

The main message from this movie is that if you really want to achieve something, nothing is impossible.

Values in this movie that you might wish to reinforce with your children include:

  • trust
  • determination, perseverance and commitment
  • concentration.

You might also wish to discuss with your children the real-life dangers and consequences of Philippe’s actions. For example:

  • Philippe believed that his attempt to walk a wire between the Twin Towers was a stunt worth dying for. Is any adventure worth dying for?
  • Philippe intentionally committed several crimes to carry out his stunt. Should he have been punished for these crimes? Did the end results justify the crime? Should someone like Philippe be exempt from the law?