Free Solo (Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin) – This guy is crazy! Alex Honnold is now the king of climbing, traversing impossible peaks with no ropes. His quest to climb the daunting El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is captured in Free Solo, this year’s Academy Award-winning documentary.
When this film beat out RBG for Oscar, a lot of us were disappointed. But there is no doubt that the making of this film was a monumental achievement. Honnold is an odd duck, an obsessed, fearless athlete with nerves of steel and focus beyond humanly possible. As crazy as this all seems, Honnold’s commitment is grudgingly compelling. His girlfriend’s fear is palpable. His film crew’s skill level is off the charts while their fear of seeing their friend die is undeniable.
All this plays out as drama. Just as we think we’re about to experience the climb to summit or death, Honnold “bails” part way up the mountain. As an audience, we’re both relieved and saddened. Then, a few months later – after winter intervenes – we watch as he tries again.
Free Solo is a photographic masterpiece. It is a human drama and an agonizing journey. For athletes, it is a challenge of immense proportion. For the rest of us, it is craziness documented.