The beauty of Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s Free Solo lies within their stolid determination to capture one man’s extraordinary journey. Chin’s climber friend Alex Honnold is about to tackle a very specific dare: he would climb over the 3,000ft tall El Capitan in Yosemite Valley by means of “free solo” – a climbing style that forbids the use of safety ropes.
For eight years, El Capitan was just a dream for Honnold; that big rock he would only gaze upon with wonder as a child. Nobody has succeeded in climbing it without ropes, not even the most experienced free solo climber. For one, it would require immense physical and mental endurance to be successful. Honnold knew it wasn’t going to be a one-climb-up. For months, he and his team would conduct several practices, perfecting the right moves to make for a successful climb. Their rehearsed as if the climb was a long dance, with painstakingly precise choreography.
As the day of the climb draws near, Free Solo finds its true purpose. The filmmaking team, including Honnold’s girlfriend Sanni McCandless, are forced to embrace the stark reality of the El Capitan challenge: chances of survival can be as bleak as 1000 to 1. Honnold, at one point, nearly backed out of the stunt altogether. Eventually, however, he performed the climb. In what might be the most dangerous stunt captured on film, Alex Honnold free-solo climbed the El Capitan. For this climactic moment alone, Free Solo is a must-watch. It is nauseating and insanely nerve-wracking, but ultimately a wonderful experience.