It was a feat which will never be repeated. On 7 August 1974, 25-year old Frenchman Philippe Petit walked out on a wire suspended at 1,350 feet between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.

Spending 45 minutes on the wire - without a safety net or harness to protect him - Petit crossed the distance between the two towers eight times, and on one occasion lay down on the wire. It was an incredible sight.

Afterwards he was handcuffed, arrested and became instantly famous for perpetrating what became known as "the artistic crime of the century." It would be almost 27 years later that an altogether more devastating crime would again place the Twin Towers in headlines across the world.

Director James Marsh's documentary on Petit's remarkable feat is awe-inspiring and gripping viewing as he brings Petit’s extraordinary adventure back to life. It's impossible not to be amazed time and time again by images of Petit between the towers.

From the off, 'Man on Wire' moves at a fast pace as Marsh tells Petit's story like that of a bank heist, bringing together archival footage of the preparation and clever dramatisations of the execution.

Throughout there are stories of disguises, mysterious accomplishes, fake ID's and dodging of security guards, which all immediately draw the viewer in.

Coupled with these is Petit's own potent narration. Now almost 60, he is as wild and off-the-wall as his chosen profession might suggest. There's a zaniness, an even crazy manic nature about him, that works well within the story of his "coup".

Like a man possessed, he tells his story in the present tense as his ex-girlfriends, friends and other accomplices chip in with their take on the preparations and eventual wire walk.

This present tense narration; Marsh's fast-paced editing and direction and the fact that 9/11 isn't touched upon in the movie, saves to rescue it from merely being seen as nostalgia.

Some viewers' thoughts may turn to that devastating atrocity, but for the most part Marsh and Petit manage to freeze time. They bring us back to 1974 and place us within Petit's world prior to the walk on the 110th floor.

Watching it you almost forget that the towers are no longer there; that making fake IDs, slipping past security guards and falling from the sky today holds different fears, and that the world has changed beyond belief in the years since Petit's work of art.

If there is a criticism of the documentary, then it is that it ends poorly, without tying up some loose ends.

It is hinted at that fame almost immediately changed Petit as a person, as he pushed aside his devoted girlfriend and doting friends. The emotional effect of this abandonment on his accomplices is shown, but never explained and even a brief note at the movie's end would have satisfied more.

Perhaps the fact that Marsh managed to get Petit's story up on screen, after he previously turned down a string of offers, came with the catch of a good portrayal of his central character.

As to why Petit chose to risk his life to create something so unexpectedly moving and beautiful? Well, that question, as the film notes, is absurd.

As Petit says, the first thing he was asked by American reporters when he came down was: "Why, why, why?"

His reply: "It's very American finger-snapping. I did something magnificent and mysterious and I got a 'why?', and the beauty of that is that I don’t have a 'why'."

Thankfully now, however, the magnificient Petit has finallly given us a 'how'.

Steve Cummins