3 Elements That Make ‘Man on Wire’ Great

Frame of Reference

In 1974, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit walked between the twin towers on a thin cable 1,350 feet in the air.
Man on Wire tells his story. 

1. Dramatic structure.

Philippe Petit walks between the Twin Towers ©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images

The opening scenes of Man on Wire set the “heist” style of the film, as noted inSheila Curran Bernard’s Documentary Storytelling, and also build a suspenseful slow disclosure of what the film is going to be about. Death is mentioned three times in the first two and a half minutes of the film. We see closeups of boots, a shirt, a hand, a watch, and eventually parts of the city. The Twin Towers are not mentioned until the end of the sequence, when Annie says that Philippe Petit needed “to conquer those towers.” This sequence is evoked later in the last twenty minutes of the film, when Petit again references the closeness of death as he…

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