Maybe not one to watch if you don’t like heights. Something very different today, but something that’s also a bit of a horror movie. The documentary “Free Solo” is a recording of an amazing athletic feat that will have your heart in your mouth. It’s something that possibly will never be matched. It won a ton of awards, including both the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Documentary, and also loads of “Outstanding Achievement” awards. It really does deserve them all.
After Burning Man in 2010, my friend Sam Kimmins and I stopped off in Yosemite National Park on our trip back to Berkeley (near San Francisco). It was a beautiful day out, even if I was suffering from cracked ribs at the time. It’s such a magical place. I remember looking up at the cliff face known as El Capitan and thinking “F*** me!” Not only is it majestic and beautiful, but it’s also a very, very scary bit of rock that’s almost a kilometre high (around 3000 ft).
I like climbing and have done quite a bit in the past. I knew that people have climbed El Capitan despite it looking almost impossible. But it usually takes a team days and they use a lot of safety equipment. And some have still died.
“Free Solo” was just supposed to be a documentary about superstar climber Alex Honnold. But then he said he was going to free solo El Capitan. It follows his year of training as he works himself up to scaling El Capitan in a matter of hours without any safety equipment whatsoever. It’s eventually just all about him and the rock face.
Honnold is an incredibly interesting and driven individual. Some might say he’s a bit crazy. But that’s what’s so wonderful about this documentary. The filmmakers (husband and wife team Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) do a wonderful job of capturing not just Honnold’s achievement but the man himself, his relationships with people, and his passion.
The eventual climb is stunningly filmed by an experienced crew of climber-filmmakers and I guarantee it will have you chewing your fingernails off.