"Free Solo" is an edge-of-your seat story of an impossible journey. The single-minded focus and amazing athleticism of Alex Honnold is astonishing. The filmmakers capture the angst and danger involved in the practice, planning and mental preparation for this truly death-defying act. It is an incredible work of film, with cameras and editing keeping the tension palpable throughout. Where this would have been enough to hold my interest, the filmmakers go a step further and dig into the strange personality and, frankly, sad emotional isolation of this athlete. Alex seems incapable of 'normal' emotional connection and is forever in pursuit of 'perfection' to balance out his self-described 'pit of self loathing'. His ultimate triumph on the climb is as rewarding as the connections he builds with those around him. Strong recommendation.
First off, the footage is absolutely out of this world. Something about the fact that you know he's actually up there without a rope and that you can see the scene from so many angles and vantage points, with such clarity makes it breathtaking - you feel like you're literally on the climb with him. You have the perspective of what it would actually be like to be up there, not just from some fly-by drone footage. Even if you don't like climbing or disapprove of someone who would do this, the footage is a huge reason to see the movie. Beyond the footage, the film does an incredible job of making you understand the significance of the climb and everything that went into it. I definitely didn't feel like they glorified free soloing or any of the dangers. Everyone involved in the making of the movie had this apprehensive understanding of Alex and what he was doing - it never felt like they stressed the free solo as a 'feat' to be done', it was something that Alex just had to do, despite what anyone else thought or wanted for him. And so rather than capture glory, 'free solo' captured the essence and the complete experience of one of the most incredible things that a human has ever done.
If you've seen other climbing docs like Meru or Dawn Wall, you get over the awe of seeing someone scale a 3000 foot wall very quickly. Without that sense of bewilderment to carry you through the last 20 minutes of the film, it leaves the ending hollow, because there's not much substance left. I was disappointed that the film didn't include more details about the actual climb. They did cover Alex motives quite well though so the middle was quite solid.
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