Free Solo (2018)

1h 40m / PG-13 / Documentary

Follow Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history.

Honnold is a man given to extreme focus, obsessive drive, and a highly spartan lifestyle, meaning he lives out of a van and mostly eats cans of beans warmed on a hot plate. His personality matches his ascetic lifestyle; Honnold doesn’t talk much and is prone to bluntness when he does speak. But though he might appear monklike, Honnold is quite the opposite. He’s a thrill seeker of the highest order, a rock climber with a particular fascination for “free soloing,” which involves scaling sheer cliffs alone without ropes, harnesses, or any protective equipment.

Why does Honnold do this? That’s not what the directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are interested in. It’s a question that’s probably impossible to answer, since there’s no real rational justification of an activity that promises certain death if you make a single mistake. Free Solo, instead, is largely about the intensity of knowing a person like Honnold, of having someone so unusual in your life, and the ways in which he bewitches, excites, and frightens the people around him simply by doing his job.