With the upcoming fictionalized IMAX 3D telling of the tale of French daredevil Phillipe Petit's stunning 1974 trot between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, The Walk, directed by Robert Zemekis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I finally decided to catch up with the 2008 Best Documentary Oscar-winner (and a whole bunch more awards), Man On Wire. (The title comes from the police report detailing his crime.)
Combining interviews with Petit and his accomplices with a ton of recreation footage with Paul McGill, a dead ringer for a young Petit, acting out the preparation, Man On Wire traces his quest from seeing a news story announcing the building of the WTC through stunts walking on Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sydney Harbor Bridge up to the security-dodging evening of the Towers walk itself.
While the subject is inherently thrilling, there is too much padding in the middle of preparations and a couple of major details aren't even explained like how was Petit & Co. paying for all their travel back and forth from France to America and the equipment itself. While they spend significant time discussing how they accidentally fed out too much cable and had to labor to pull it up, they never bother explaining how the stabilizing guy lines were rigged.
The trailer for The Walk hints at mechanical trouble, but nothing is mentioned in Man On Wire about it; the walk went uneventfully with Petit lying down on the wire and making multiple transits between the Towers. While The Walk is sure to be a visual treat - it's one of the few movies that pretty much demands seeing in 3D - it's still worth seeing the flawed, but fascinating original documentary.
Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (It's on Netflix.)