Free Solo [Celluloid Hero]
Free Solo (2018)
Alex Honnold is one of the world's most accomplished rock climbers, and as with any passion, he wanted to push his limits. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is one of the hardest climbs in the world, and to add to the pressure, Honnold was going to attempt to make the climb "free solo", meaning NO harness, NO ropes, NO man-made hand-holds, NO safety measures at all. While there is literally zero chance I would ever do anything like this, I could actually understand why Honnold would. It's just like any sort of high, any adrenaline rush; you always want a bit more.
The documentary crew follows Honnold as he creates a gameplan for the climb, as he practices with the proper safety measures, as he struggles with his girlfriend and their relationship, as he has what boil down to therapy sessions with other climbers, and as he finally makes the climb.
There was a nice split between "action" and "drama", and to be real, I probably could have watched two separate docs, one focused on each aspect of Honnold's life. Honnold talks about his childhood being void of affection. His father died when Alex was young, his mother never said "I love you", and he's had trouble expressing love to anyone else. His focus on climbing has been all-consuming, but his current girlfriend has finally started to break down his walls. It is an interesting dilemma, because climbing the way he does requires complete focus. If his mind starts to wander, thinking about his girlfriend, or thinking about how she'd react if he died, that lapse in concentration could be what leads to tragedy. Watching Sanni, the girlfriend, try to turn the robotic Alex into more of a human was frustrating and charming at the same time. I could have watched the psychological development and how it impacts everyone in his life, without even seeing the mountain at all.
On the flip, there's part of me that would be willing to watch Honnold's climb in it's entirety. The movie obviously cuts out most of it, and focuses on a few of the more intense and dangerous parts of the route. The tension is so strong that even the cameraman has to turn away at moments - he sets up his shot, leaves the camera on the tripod, and just walks away. As intense as it is, I would absolutely sit for almost four hours and just watch this incredible feat.
Sometimes I wish I had a camera that recorded my reaction to certain movies. I don't think I've ever watched a movie that made me wince and cringe and tense up as much as "Free Solo" (other than some crazy gory horror flick). I also don't think I've ever cursed at a movie as much, with variations of "eff that" and "eff no" or "eff you" or "shut the eff up".
[Celluloid Hero] gives "Free Solo" an 8 out of 10.