Spoiler Alert: The high-wire artist Philippe Petit survived his famous tightrope walk between the Twin Towers. This is old news—34 years old, actually—and yet the documentary Man on Wire is still a watch-through-your-fingers experience. James Marsh's film revisits "the artistic crime of the century" through reenactments and interviews with the intensely animated Petit, now 58, and his still-exhilarated accomplices, who sneaked past security at the World Trade Center and, in a single, nerve-racking night, rigged a steel cable between the buildings. Petit has always said that his astonishing stunt was a "gift" to all who saw it, and the same could be said of this joyous, captivating movie. It walks on air.
In the documentary American Teen, high school student Hannah Bailey tries to keep her head in the clouds, but her troubled parents and a rough breakup keep dragging her back to earth. Though Nanette Burstein's look inside an Indiana high school is mostly a collection of archetypes (there's the jock, the nerd, the princess...), Bailey's artsy, anxious dreamer is so real it hurts. You want to wrap your arms around her and promise that, all appearances to the contrary, high school does not last forever.