The part that you’re most wanting to know about is the climb itself, as then-31-year-old Alex Honnold took his climbing obsession to his ultimate test, which was to ascend El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, which many have climbed – with ropes, but he’s the only one to date who has managed to do it ‘free solo’, i.e. without ropes. Hence, if he slips, he falls, and that’s the end of him.
And that makes him one of the most selfish man on the planet. He doesn’t seem to care if he embarks upon a relationship and then snuffs it, because his significant other can easily just find someone else, he believes. Naturally, girlfriend Sanni McCandless does not share his love of potentially wanting to kill himself, given that they’re at the point where they’ve bought a house together.
Free Solo graced the cinemas in December 2018, but premiered on Channel 4 on May 23rd, and while I don’t mind films on a commercial channel too much, we were bombarded with adverts more often than any other recent film I can think of. This one only runs for 100 minutes, yet was given a 125-minute slot, and as such, I thought the excessive commercials early on would mean that when we get to the climb proper – which is the last 25-30 minutes of the film itself, they would be ad-free. No. Channel 4 still crammed a break in, thus completely killing the atmosphere.
Without wanting to use a pun, the climb itself is gripping, as Alex inches his way up the 3200-feet-high piece of rock, but prior to that, the preparation is a bit ho-hum. We are also reminded of the many tragedies which have happened along the way, for many who have died doing a ‘free solo’ at any time, when they are barely even halfway through their lives.
Overall, this is worth checking out, but when you get to the climb, itself, stand up and press your face against the screen, and try not to fall over…
And now Alex has achieved his dream, I hope he settles down with Sanni and realises that mountains are best to be looked at and not climbed up.
Running time: 100 minutes
Cinema Release date: March 11th 2019
Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Producers: Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill, Evan Hayes, Shannon Hill, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Music: Marco Beltrami
Cast (as themselves):
John Bachar (archive footage) (uncredited)
Derek Hersey (archive footage) (uncredited)
Sean Leary (archive footage) (uncredited)
Dan Osman (archive footage) (uncredited)
Dean Potter (archive footage) (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.