By Gregory Crofton
“FREE SOLO” is a phenomenal ride. Daring filmmakers allow us to follow mountain climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to scale a 3,000-foot slab of granite in Yosemite using only his chalked hands and booted feet.
This is Spider Man for real.
To “free solo” is to climb a mountain without using any ropes. Make one mistake, you fall to your death. The film is a great example of why documentaries appeal to me. Done the right way — which often means investing years of effort on a project — cameras can capture multiple dramatic storylines intensified by change that comes with time.
When a documentary runs too long, and “FREE SOLO” does not (100 minutes), there is often a drain on its capacity to entertain. A film can fall victim to “truth”: too many facts, too much history, too much explanation. The filmmaker won’t be able to deliver what most people want in a movie: drama, suspense, love, action.
“FREE SOLO” never gets bogged down by its genre. The filmmakers, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (a husband and wife team), get out in front of this fantastic story and leave all the good parts in, especially epic shots of El Capitan, the sheer wall of granite that Honnold is determined to conquer.
“FREE SOLO” is now playing at a limited number of theaters across the U.S. Go see it on the big screen! You can also check out the Honnold Foundation, an initiative established in 2012 that uses solar energy to address inequalities in the world.
Below find a trailer for the film, and beneath that an episode of 60 Minutes that features Honnold.
An episode of 60 Minutes from 2011.