An Oscar winning documentary that reaches spectacular heights. Free Solo captures the engaging world of incredible solo rock climber Alex Honnold, whose passion has challenged him to climb one of the longest rock faces on the planet. But apart from enjoying watching him dare to achieve the seemingly impossible, it’s everything in the background that leads up to his climb that makes the film even better.
By large and far my favourite part about the film is its subject and for two reasons.
The first is that the film does well to show us just how incredible his solo rock-climbing abilities are. I can’t imagine the effort and time it would have taken to setup half these shots to get the angles of him climbing up this ridiculously steep cliff face – all the while knowing that at any moment, he could make a mistake and that would be the end of it. There are some seriously fantastic shots of Alex that really do justice in showing the incredible ability he has.
But apart from just the beautiful cinematography, I also loved seeing the attention to details that Alex puts into his training and planning. Scenes of him writing down and memorising instructions for each little nook and cranny on the climb were great to see. It was both impressive and inspiring to see him completely commit and dedicated himself to his mastery craft. He’s an absolute beast and I’m glad the film didn’t just show him “winging it”.
The other reason I loved the focus on Alex was that apart from all the rock-climbing stuff, he’s just a naturally (albeit sometimes unintentionally) funny and quirky individual. Almost every scene where Alex is talking to his girlfriend delivers some kind of gem in a one-liner or a facial expression that made me lose it. Alex is often completely rational and unapologetic for the way he feels which is not only hilarious but also shows his witty intelligence. Hence, I’m glad the film chose to document moments between him and his girlfriend, and not just the epic rock climbing shots, because he is a God amongst men on top of being one of the best rock climbing apes of the human race.
Overall, I don’t have many negative things to say apart from it wasn’t mind-blowingly amazing but only compared to other better documentary films. Some of the music used added a bit of cheese to certain situations. Likewise, there were a few moments of conversations between two people that looked poorly edited just for an effect. Nothing overly terrible.
But even though I don’t believe the film is mind-blowingly amazing, I wholeheartedly believe that what Alex Holland has achieved in his life is mind-blowingly amazing. And not even because of how the incredible rock faces his climb. But simply for the sheer fact that he has time and time again, completely been able to perfectly accomplish something while risking the ultimate consequence which doesn’t give him any second chances. I don’t think I can name anything else that puts someone through so many hurdles all of which need to be completed perfectly, otherwise if you don’t you lose your life. So because of his cahonas, I salute you Alex.