Man on Wire (2008)

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Released 4-Feb-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-James Marsh, Simon Chinn & Jonathan Hewes
Interviews-Cast-Interview with Philippe Petit
Featurette-Sydney Harbour Bridge Crossing - A Film by James Ricketson
DVD-ROM Extras-Australian Teachers of Media - Study Guide (PDF)
Theatrical Trailer-Man On Wire
Teaser Trailer-Madman Trailers
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 90:24 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Marsh

Madman Entertainment
Starring Philippe Petit
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Michael Nyman
Josh Ralph

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    "I started as a young self-taught wire walker to dream of not so much conquering the universe, but as a poet, conquering beautiful stages". Philippe Petit.

    Early on the morning of August 7th 1974, Frenchman, Philippe Petit walked along a wire suspended some 417m above the ground between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in Lower Manhattan. Naturally, he did this without permission and without any form of safety precaution - the slightest lapse in concentration meant certain death.

    For forty-five minutes Petit avoided authorities by simply turning around on the wire and making the return journey back to the other tower. He made eight crossings, often stopping to sit or even lie on the 3/4" cable before finally being apprehended and arrested by New York City Police. This astounding achievement is the central focus of James Marsh's multi-award winning documentary, Man On Wire.

    Philippe's amazing talent for wire walking and acrobatics developed from a very young age. When he was just eight, he read an article in a newspaper about the pending construction of the Twin Towers. From that day forward Philippe nurtured an obsessive desire to one day walk between these towers - the ultimate achievement for any wire walker.

    Naturally, to achieve this goal Philippe needed the assistance of many dedicated people. A project of this size required hours of meticulous planning and preparation. Not only did they need to consider the logistics of such an event, but they also needed to bypass heavy security and evade the authorities.

    Man On Wire opens with a juxtaposition of images showing the beginning of construction on the towers of the World Trade Centre with a young Philippe Petit honing his remarkable skills. Man On Wire delivers Philippe's story with a blend of still photographs, archival footage (some only recently developed), recent interviews and dramatic reconstructions. James Marsh builds the suspense leading up to the "coup" with great skill. He briefly interrupts the story with two of Philippe's previous wire walks - the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1971 and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1973. Both of these events are awesome in their own right and add to the tension leading up to the Twin Towers walk.

    As previously mentioned, Man On Wire is a multi-award winning documentary. Some of these awards include the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008, the award for Outstanding British Film at the 2009 BAFTA's and the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

    When Philippe Petit stepped off the roof of the South Tower onto the wire he realised an ambition that had haunted him since childhood. Man On Wire pays tribute to this amazing feat and to the many people who assisted Philippe achieve his dream. And perhaps more subtlely, Man On Wire is also a testament to the two colossal buildings that once dwarfed everything on the Manhattan skyline.

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Transfer Quality


    The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.

    Man On Wire is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The Internet Movie Database claims the correct aspect ratio of this film is 1.85:1.

    There are many different sources of film footage used in the film, so sharpness and aspect ratios vary throughout. Overall though, the transfer appears to be faithful to the original source. Blacks were clean and shadow detail was very good.

    Colour intensity also varied depending on the source. In general, colours were excellent with no adverse issues.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noticed in the transfer. Considering the different film sources, film-to-video artefacts were negligible and film artefacts were not an issue.

    The only subtitles are in English. These are in bold white and burned in to the print. Note: These subtitles only appear during passages of French dialogue and aren't available through the entire film.

    This is a DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change was very noticeable at 65:10.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s).

    Generally, dialogue quality was excellent. Even with heavy French accents, I had very few problems hearing and comprehending the dialogue.

    There were no obvious problems with audio sync.

    The original music used in the film was written by Josh Ralph. However, a large percentage of the music in Man On Wire comes from existing compositions by Michael Nyman. Fans of Peter Greenaway's films may recognise certain passages of music taken from the many Greenaway film scores written by Michael Nyman. There is also some other musical contributions from other sources, including the early Fleetwood Mac track, Albatross.

    I didn't notice any surround activity and the subwoofer remained passive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of Michael Nyman's music.


Audio Commentary - James Marsh (Director), Simon Chinn (Producer) & Jonathan Hewes (Executive Producer )

    An entertaining and informative commentary, which offers plenty of insight into the making of the film. The commentary also answers some questions raised during the film such as, how did Philippe fund the Twin Towers operation? And, why was there no video footage taken during the Twin Towers walk?

Man On Wire - An Interview with Philippe Petit (12:39)

    Philippe Petit talks about his life, his philosophies and the art of wire walking.

Featurette - Sydney Harbour Bridge Crossing - A Film by James Ricketson (20:13)

    In 1973, Philippe Petit was performing on the streets of Sydney when he met and became friends with film student, James Ricketson. James subsequently became a co-conspirator in Philippe's quest to walk on a wire across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. James' amazing footage of the preparation and the actual event is incorporated with recent footage of a meeting between himself and Philippe.

DVD-Rom - Australian Teachers Of Media Study Guide (PDF)

   This 13 page study guide is an excellent resource not only for teachers, but anyone with an interest in the film. It is loaded with relevant information about Philippe Petit, the film and the event.

Original Theatrical Trailer

    Man On Wire (2:07 )

Madman Trailers   

  • Amandla! (1:48)
  • Dogora (1:49)
  • In The Shadow Of The Moon (2:27)
  • In Search Of Mozart (2:36)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

         There is a R1 edition of Man On Wire released by Magnolia Home Entertainment on 9th December 2008. This release has a few differences from the local R4 Madman edition.

        The R4 Madman edition misses out on -   

        The R1 Magnolia edition misses out on -   

        The Dolby 5.1 audio track is rather insignificant with a documentary such as this. Although the animated short would have been a welcome addition, the inclusion of the audio commentary places the R4 Madman edition well on top.


        Man On Wire is an enthralling documentary that will seize your attention from the very beginning. James Marsh conveys the story of Philippe Petit with all the suspense and tension of a classic thriller. Madman have presented this 2009 Oscar winner on DVD in an excellent package. Highly recommended.

        The transfers are both very good.

        The selection of extras is fascinating and relevant.




  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Thursday, March 12, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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