• Loren Javier

REVIEW REWIND: Free Solo (2018)


Photo: National Geographic

Next on my watchlist was the National Geographic film Free Solo which won a lot of accolades, including the coveted Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


Free Solo follows Alex Honnold, a climber who scales death-defying heights with no ropes, also known as "free solo," and his goal of scaling El Capitan in Yosemite, a climb immensely difficult by any means. Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi explore the motivations of what makes Honnold want to scale these mountains at risk of life and limb. It also explores his relationships with people, most especially his girlfriend Sanni McCandless, and how they deal with someone who takes risking their life to a new level.


In all honesty, I had no idea what this movie was about. The Star Wars fan in me kept thinking it was a movie about freeing Han Solo from carbonite in Jabba's throne room. Haha. But, what I got was an intense and raw documentary about the triumph of the human spirit to complete what was once thought of as unachievable goals.


Photo: National Geographic

The film doesna't try to solve why Honnold has decided to do this, but, instead, focuses on the here and now. It almost tries to work to reduce our anxieties for him to do this climb by really delving into his mind and psychology. That said, the last twenty minutes of this film, where Honnold is able to scale the 3,000 foot cliff in just short of four hours, were some of the most intense of my lifetime. You see him contort his body in so many ways on this cliff, but, most of all, the intensity of his breathing added to the drama of it all. I was at the edge of my seat the entire time, wincing every time he made a move. When Honnold gets to the top, you almost feel that sense of achievement and relish it with him.


The cinematography of this film is absolutely beautiful, not only bringing us an intimate look into a dangerous free solo climb, but also the majesty of El Capitan and the Yosemite Valley.


Free Solo is a great documentary film that really shows you that, if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. And, it also shows that life is worth living, even if you put yourself in life threatening situations.

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