What’s it all about?
The story of “one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever”, as NY Times put it, aka the climb of El Capitan, world’s tallest rock, without a rope or a harness or anything else.
The climb is performed by a pretty nice guy who lives in a van, is vegetarian and, also, his brain’s fear centers are basically numb, as we learn from the scene where he gets an MRI. His name is Alex Honnold, he’s 33 years old and is known for being the greatest living free-soloist with a whopping 1,000 solitary ascents to his name.
Heart-stopping camera angles, masterfully calculated to literally take your breath away by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, also involved in the making of “Meru”, short-listed for the best documentary Oscar in 2015.
Chin himself is a climber, therefore the rapport built between him and Honnold (they’ve known each other for a long time) generates fairness and emotion. The entire crew is rife with experienced climbers that deliver the “you are there” feeling and methods of defying gravity beautifully.
The importance of planning, the acceptance of death, a childhood devoid of hugs, but more than that the dynamics of an almost impossible relationship with a solo climber.
Sanni McCandless, the protagonist’s girlfriend, is there to challenge a task for herself - the difficulty to hang on to the love that grows between her and Honnold. Beware of the moment where she bids him goodnight before the El Capitan conquer attempt because it is as hard to watch as the footage of the climb itself.
Is it worth it?
If you want to find answers to questions like “does it make sense to ignore death?” or “can I leave fear behind?” this is your go-to film. You’ll get almost intolerable suspense, even though you know that he’s not going to lose his life. This is what a person can do by putting their mind, body and spirit to an epic task.
Through “Free Solo”, you can witness it.
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