Sometimes movies where the conclusion is known can be robbed a little bit of their momentum, but in the case of Free Solo, there was a fascinating tension throughout. The gorgeously-shot documentary film covers the intention of Alex Honnold to become the first person to ever scale the 3000 ft. wall of El Capitan in Yosemite with no ropes or gear of any kind. As the film tracks Honnold’s quest, his training, and his relationship, it also showcases the beautiful scenery of the mountains he scales, and somewhat surprisingly, there’s never a dull moment.
There’s not much of a story to Free Solo. It’s a man vs. nature epic that is peppered with a couple stops and starts, but is more focused on detailing what drives man in general, and what drives this man in specific to tackle such a dangerous feat. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is how the filmmakers themselves become part of the story, as they struggle with documenting the feat which has a possible scenario of them recording Honnold’s death.
With such a simple premise and a last-third that tracks the climactic journey, it can feel a little slight. Detours to hospitals, schools, and homes give detailed insight into why Honnold has this goal and the importance of it. The breathtaking scenes of Honnold’s climbing throughout are impeccably shot and the crazy feats of strength, pliability and endurance that Honnold achieves are endlessly intriguing. Definitely worth catching on the biggest screen possible.
My Grade – B