Some stories are so completely thrilling and compellingly told, they pull you to the edge of your seat even if you already know the outcome. Documentary filmmaker James Marsh has one such story - and a storyteller to match - in Man on Wire.

Some stories are so completely thrilling and compellingly told, they pull you to the edge of your seat even if you already know the outcome. Documentary filmmaker James Marsh has one such story - and a storyteller to match - in Man on Wire.

His subject and central narrator is Philippe Petit, a self-taught wirewalker consumed by a desire to string a wire between the towers of the World Trade Center and walk across it, before the buildings were even constructed. In 1974, the Frenchman traveled to the U.S. with some friends who agreed to help and he pulled it off with no permanent damage, a fact obvious from his appearance in the film and the images used to promote it.

Still, the feat itself is riveting, and the efforts to make it happen form a terrific yarn of their own. Each part is given an altogether charming quality by friends' reminiscences, silent comedy-style recreations and music selections by Michael Nyman, but Marsh's most entertaining asset is Petit, an impish presence and born conversationalist. The director envelopes him in black, the better to concentrate on the ageless passion in his voice, and hands that are constantly, gracefully gesturing.

"Man on Wire"

Opens Friday at the Drexel Grandview

Grade: A