Imagine practicing for an Olympic gold medal and not winning it, will you will die? Now imagine that there is no gold medal or world championship to win; the only prize you get to keep is that you won’t die and i.e. what one achieve when he/she does Free Solo. Free Soloing is rock-climbing without ropes, harness or any other lifeline.
In a world where people travel, perform some or the other thing and do adventure sports just to gain likes and comments on social media Alex Honnold does it for performance. Free Solo not only covers Alex’ expedition but also uncovers why he does it and why he choose to take this hair-raising, feet-trembling, gut-wrenching adventure.
Filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi & director-producer-climber-photographer Jimmy Chin manage to make a film which is far from being obsessed with the success story, this is a film about the fear of failure, fear of falling from grace straight to pit of death and fear which manifests differently among each member of the cast and crew.
Alex Honnold is an introvert who took solo climbing because he was too scared to interact with other climbers, at the age of 23 he taught himself the ropes of hugging the human species. Just like the rocks he likes to conquer, his girlfriend Sanni who is an amateur climber has a task to conquer the hugest rock i.e. Alex’s heart. She is trying to drive into his head that he can have a stable relationship and follow his passion. You are also exposed to the humourous side of Alex as he expresses that he had never injured himself for last 8-9 years but since he met Sanni he has had 2 falls and injured himself. Alex has humour which is an endearing part of this edge of the seat thriller documentary.
Free Solo doesn’t even fall in the same universe of Taste The Fear or Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai ads. It is not a film which has David V/S Goliath storyline or the protagonist has a character arc. It is a story of a man who wants to scale El Capitan, 3200 feet of rock in Yosemite National Park without a rope but for this, he did ascend the same rock 49 times earlier with rope and learned all the ropes (pun-intended) of climbing the rock without ropes. A monologue where he describes all the moves that he needs to learn and execute to climb El Capitan which he had noted in his journal is one scene which stays with you even after the end credits have rolled.
Jimmy Chin and his team of professional climbers who have shot this vertigo-inducing documentary also show their human-side when they are stressed and worried for Alex as he dares to achieve his life-long dream. Free Solo is shot in a way like other Nat Geo show which exposes you to the beauty of nature and awakens the wanderlust inside you. The best part of the documentary is when Alex plan’s his climb, prepares for the ascend, wakes up at 3 am and starts his climb you feel today is the day but then he bails and has to wait for nearly a year to fulfill his dream. At the moment Alex decides not to continue, we are taken aback.
The makers pay respect to Alex and his achievement as they don’t try to induce pseudo-fulfillment by not background scoring the scene where Alex climbs his proverbial and the real mountain with joy-inducing music and his preparation shots with Eye OF The Tiger-esque music.
Starwise we give Free Solo 4.5 stars and these are reasons enough for you to book your tickets for it ASAP.