Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo.pngDirector: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Starring: Alex Honnold, Sanni McCandless, Jimmy Chin, Tommy Caldwell

It's always fascinating to see what drives us to do what we love, but what about when the object of our affections are a great risk to our own lives? Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin use this doc to explore that idea, centred around rock climber Alex Honnold. His life is centred around committing free solo climbs, which requires no wires or safety equipment, and his lifelong dream is to be the first person to free solo climb the El Capitan wall, which stands at 3,200 feet high.

The directors do a wonderful job at taking this story and making it cinematic, getting a tremendous sense of the scope that comes from such an undertaking, as well as the terror it also brings. For anyone unfamiliar with performing such a feat, the difficulties are clearly addressed, while highlighting how easily lives are lost in partaking such a hobby. The tension is wrung out to a magnificent and unbearable effect, with a key quote from an expert climber sticking in the mind, detailing that those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of rock climbing believe Alex is safe and knows what he's doing, while the experienced climbers are terrified at the prospect.

Viewers are regularly given an insight into Alex, and those close to him, through conversational pieces. Sanni, Alex's partner, is very fearful over the dangers which come with Alex's goal, but doesn't want to discourage him, lest he regret never attempting the climb in the first place. There's a great deal of consideration and worry from those involved, as director Jimmy Chin questions whether it's ethical to keep filming should Alex fail. As we're told at another part, engaging in such a quest is like taking part in a competition where you win a gold medal, or you die.

An engrossing tale that'll have you on tenterhooks, Free Solo is a heartstopping and breathtaking documentary.