Free Solo (2018)

★★★★★ | by

Posted on Nov 22, 2020

© Jimmy Chin \ Free Solo


Professional rock climber Alex Honnold attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan’s 900-metre vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.

Everyone wants to witness the greatest athlete in their sport achieve the unachievable. Whether it be Michael Schumacher winning his record breaking 91st Grand Prix in Barcelona, or Usain Bolt’s World Record 100m sprint in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Rarely do we see one human being set a record that may never be achieved again in human history. We will see another racing driver win more races than Schumacher, and we will see another human being run faster than Usain Bolt, probably.

What we most likely will never see again, however, is one single human climb 3,000ft in just under four hours, without any rope, harness or wire. That man is Alex Honnold, you can read about it more, here.

Free Solo

Free Solo is a documentary film by the very talented Jimmy Chin (180 South, 2010), and details Alex Honnold’s journey to climb the most famous rock face in the world, El Capitan.

Honnold will of course receive a large proportion of the plaudits, but the filmmakers filming a climber who before was insistent on doing his free solo climbs alone, has to be written about.

The pure technicality in making this highly aesthetically pleasing film is one of huge merit. Chin, himself a climber, assembled a crew that is littered with fellow sportsmen, and that pays dividend in the final product. They capture moves and positions only fellow climbers would really understand and relate to. The glass rock, or a small pinch grip, or a sloper. All vocabulary climbers are familiar with, and I see that Chin does not waste precious screen time getting the audience up to speed.

Capturing not only the athletic feat Honnold took, but capturing the pure passion, and single track belief that Honnold’s life is exactly as we see on camera, is something Chin captures magnificently. Living out of his van, climbing every single day, and, as Honnold puts it in the film,

“Being perfect, for just a moment”.

One feeling you’ll take away from this film is that, although you know he doesn’t fall to his death, you still can’t help but notice your hands clam up, and your attention gets that much more heightened.

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