Man on Wire is a famous British documentary film directed by James Marsh. It received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and is wildly acclaimed, but I found it flawed nonetheless.
It is about Philippe Petit and his wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974. It starts with archival footage of his preparations with interviews from him and his friends and relatives and ends with the walk itself. Now, my main problem with the film is that it is just so narrow in scope and subject matter. The best documentaries give us a wider picture surrounding the event and not just the event itself. I never really felt like I met a man because he was never properly explored besides his love for the wire walking. I needed something more, mainly the politics and opinion of the world surrounding the event and the wider picture and most importantly a bigger character study of this person. All you get here is the walk and no matter how well executed it is, and it is phenomenally put together, it is still not enough in my opinion.
As for the positives, there are many and those are not just the technical aspects. The archival footage was fascinating to me and one of the movie’s biggest strengths. It is so well done and spread throughout the picture evenly that I enjoyed it the most here. And it just perfectly sets the mood for the film and transports you to that decade. I also like its heist approach as it is done remarkably well. All those suspenseful moments before the walk with the police and everything are the standout sequences, wonderfully shot and beautifully filmed. I liked its black-and-white photography quite a bit. And those sequences are borderline between live-action and documentary and such an intriguing concept for sure.
But the interviews which are incredibly important for documentaries are unfortunately not that good here. It fails to give us more insight with more people, it barely focuses on anyone other than Petit himself. And although his interviews are well done and his way of telling his story is great and very entertaining, his strong French accent still bothered me to listen for an hour and a half.
Speaking of its running time, it is way too long for such a simple story or event to be exact. This is just an event, one simple event, and to watch just that and its preparations for ninety minutes can induce boredom. But that is not the problem of the editors, but of the script because, as I said before, if they focused on the broader picture, it would have been much more interesting and it would have justified its running time undoubtedly.
As for its technicalities, those are the reasons to see Man on Wire. The directing from James Marsh is quite good here. It is so incredibly well shot with just fascinating cinematography and breathtaking aerial scenery. But some scenes are also even artistic in their execution and the movie is also solidly paced and edited. It is also very factual and it provides you with everything you need to know about the event itself, albeit never going further from it. But the score is amazing. It is so incredible and mixing original with classical music perfectly and accompanying it wonderfully with the action on screen. The score lifted this whole movie a lot for me. As for its Oscar, I cannot speak for it as I have yet to watch all the other nominees, but I am quite sure that it did not deserve as it is just never as compelling or as broad as it should have been.
Man on Wire is incredibly well shot with stunning aerial photography and some artistic scenes as well, the score is simply marvelous, the archival footage is the highlight and the movie gives you everything you need to know about the event itself, but it never goes further unfortunately as it doesn’t provide the wider picture besides the walk and the interviews are lacking. It is a solid documentary, but the one that isn’t nearly as compelling as it should have been.