Ryan liked the documentary Free Solo. Watson liked the documentary Free Solo. When those two guys agree this much on something like a documentary, that probably means I need to check it out.
So I did.
Alex Honnold is a rock climber. The man lives to climb, and he particularly likes the form of climbing known as “free soloing” which basically means climbing rocks without a rope to catch you if you fall. Consequently, this is a style of climbing where many of the men (and all the free solo-types featured in the documentary are men) have low life spans. Alex is more or less fine with that as for him, life is about performing to the utmost in everything he does. He basically can’t not climb. For this documentary, the film follows his preparation for being the first person to ever free solo up the “El Capitan” nearly vertical cliff in Yosemite National Park. While the film does eventually get to the actual climb, most of the film is about his preparation.
As someone who is generally out of shape and afraid of heights, this is the closest I will ever get to climbing a mountain without a rope, and the various scenes of Alex climbing, both with and without a rope as he practices for the eventual climb, are well shot and tense. It helps that most of the on-hand crew, many of whom appear on camera, are also experienced climbers in their own right. That actually becomes a factor for Alex. He’s never had to concern himself with being filmed before, and he seems to have finally found something like a steady girlfriend, both of which could be sources of distraction as he goes about his business doing something where he absolutely cannot be distracted for any reason because the slightest mistake could leave him dead. Alex himself is a likable enough guy, but at the same time, the film shows he has the sort of personality that would make it hard to get close to him. Climbing is his life in ways that would seem obsessive to other people. There are probably plenty of people like Alex, and he doesn’t even do what he does out of some sort of sense of thrill-seeking. It’s just what he wants to do. As such, he’s a fascinating subject for a documentary. Go see it. 10 out of 10 spoon-less meals.